The fall hiring season has returned with renewed vigor, with some big law firms bringing in as many new fall associates as they did before the economic downturn.
One thing is noticeable: more of the new fall hires have prior professional experience and have been out of law school for a few years, as firms continue to seek candidates who fill specific staffing needs.
"A lot of the hiring is not back to the pre-recession madness, but it has rebounded," said Peter Giuliani, a Weston, Conn.-based law firm economic adviser who works with 100-lawyer-plus law firms throughout the country. "I don't think the salaries have gone up much at all though."
These days, new hires are expected to know more than the average applicant fresh from law school. That means lawyers with strong internships, court clerkships or business experience are in highest demand. "There is a big inventory on the market of lawyers who have experience," Giuliani said.
Day Pitney, with offices in New York, New Jersey and Hartford, Conn., announced it has hired 16 new associates, including eight in Connecticut, which the firm said is its biggest fall associate class ever. Wiggin and Dana welcomed four new associates to its offices in New Haven, Conn. and Stamford, Conn. Shipman & Goodwin brought in eight new associates, including many with useful past-work experience for its growing practice areas, including education and import/export law.
"The talent pool was exceptional in 2012 and many things differentiated these hires," said Karen Staib, partner and chair of the Hiring Committee for Shipman & Goodwin. Worth noting she said, was that "some previously held jobs within industries where we provide legal services."
One of the new hires is a former teacher who has joined the firm's education law practice. Another worked as an aerospace engineer before going to law school. "He will begin his legal career in our import/export compliance practice, servicing some of the world's largest defense and aerospace corporations and manufacturers," Staib said.
A factor fueling this hiring spree is that many large firms cut back their staffing levels in 2009 and 2010, especially with regard to newer associates, right after the economic downturn began in 2008. Law firms have since realized there is a gap between their staffing levels and their ability to keep clients happy.
"So now the firms are back out in the market, hiring laterally to fill experience gaps," Giuliani said. "That is what may be churning a little action in the recruiting market."