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It’s just Jan. 8, but the job-hunting season is already in full swing. And that means the phone in recruiter Julie Brush’s office at Palo Alto-based Solutus Legal Search is ringing off the hook with lawyers looking for new jobs. “It’s usually during this time that we get the majority of our calls” from lawyers, Brush said. “They have their bonuses secured and they know exactly where they are at their firms.” That sort of enlightenment often emboldens lawyers to start talking to recruiters or even buddies at other law firms about possible opportunities this time of year, Brush said. Unlike in previous years, Brush has some good news for job seekers — especially corporate associates who became the primary targets for layoffs during the downturn. Feeling buoyed by an upsurge in transactional work that came in late 2003, firms are ready to hire junior associates. Take Perkins Coie, for example. One Perkins partner mused this week that he sure could use some more second-year associates and had some interviews scheduled. Senior associates looking to leave their law firms, however, face a different market, Brush said. They have a better shot at moving in-house than getting a job at another law firm, she said. “Law firms are looking at the more junior associates,” Brush said. “They’re pretty well stocked with senior associates. “If you’re a sixth-year, it’s going to be harder for you to make a move to another law firm than it would be to move in-house,” Brush said. Companies are ready to hire more in-house lawyers, Brush said. She has a handful of active searches under way for companies looking for attorneys with experience in licensing, patents and compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Partners, she said, still face a difficult road. Firms are demanding partners bring with them a large book of business. At firms like Pillsbury Winthrop, partners should have a book of $2 million to $3 million if they want an interview. The good news for partners is that with transactional work picking up, firms may take a closer look at partners for their skills as a service partner even if they have a small book of business, she said. “It’s going to be an interesting year,” Brush said. “There are a lot more opportunities for partners and associates at firms as well as in-house.”

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