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When Pittsburgh attorney Doug Harhai was downsized out of a corporate counsel position last April, he decided to go out on his own, opening The Law Office of Douglas Harhai two months after he was laid off from Igate Mastech Inc., a subsidiary of Igate Corp. To Harhai, the decision to open a solo private practice was one that he had been contemplating for the last three years and that, in the end, came down to one simple factor: A weak corporate environment has made it difficult for attorneys like him to find an in-house job. “It’s very competitive, and it’s a buyer’s market because a glut of lawyers and a decreasing amount of companies lead to a limited amount of in-house legal jobs,” Harhai said. “Contrast this with a Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York or Charlotte market, or just about any other large city on the East Coast where the market is vibrant and the companies are plentiful. When you have a concentration of companies, it follows naturally that you need legal support for those companies.” Harhai’s decision, though precipitated by the round of layoffs that eliminated his job, was influenced greatly by his perception of the lack of growth potential for corporate counsel in Pittsburgh. “After about three years at the company, I saw that I hit a wall, and I wasn’t earning proportionally with what my colleagues were earning,” he said. “When I started looking at the corporate in-house market in Pittsburgh, I realized there weren’t that many good in-house positions that would offer me opportunities for future growth. At that point I decided that I would need to go out on my own.” Harhai did find more corporate opportunities outside of Pittsburgh during his job search. “I think when you look outside of Pittsburgh, your opportunities grow exponentially for corporate jobs,” he said. Although Harhai wasn’t restricted geographically, except by his family, he wanted to exhaust all of his opportunities in Pittsburgh. “Our children are our anchors here,” he said. “We felt that we owed it to our children to get to know their relatives. Fortunately, my wife has a good job here and I now have my own practice, and I think our kids are better off because of it.” Chat�n T. Turner actually came to Pittsburgh for an in-house legal job. She moved to Pittsburgh from North Carolina in 2003 to become an assistant counsel for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center after spending several years working in private practice. Turner, who has practiced in three different cities, agreed with Harhai that it is more competitive in Pittsburgh because of its declining economy and because most lawyers don’t tend to leave the city. She said it’s not just the in-house jobs that are tough to find; private practice positions are scarce as well. “As it relates to legal jobs, it has been my experience that the jobs that are highly coveted are scarce everywhere,” she said. “There’s always going to be a shortage of in-house jobs wherever you go because many attorneys view in-house jobs as the mecca of practice. For that reason, they are highly coveted and demand frequently exceeds supply in all markets. Big firm jobs are also coveted because of what they pay compared to smaller and midsized firms. When you have high student loans, people are out for the money, at least, initially. And so they want to go to a big firm and those jobs are tough to find.” Turner said that many attorneys desire in-house jobs because they perceive those positions to be less stressful. “Many lawyers who work for large private firms right out of law school find that it is not as sexy as it seemed in law school,” she said. “You get seduced by the money and prestige but once you get there it turns out to be a real pressure cooker because you’re trying to put out quality work while simultaneously having to bill sufficient hours for your law firm. You are evaluated by whether you bill enough hours and also whether you turn out a quality work product. Whereas when you go in-house at a corporation, you can focus on producing quality legal work. You’re not evaluated by how much you bill.” Working in-house also offers other upside opportunities, like working and being invested in one business rather than working on multiple matters for multiple clients. Also, for Turner, life in-house also tends to be kinder and gentler. “You have the option of sometimes working a reduced schedule,” she said. “However, when you come to a corporation, the work is not easier, but the lifestyle tends to be easier. And that’s why a lot of people want to get out of law firms. That being said, since I have been on both sides, there are advantages to firm life � more money, more resources, and more prestige � but not enough to make me go back.” Although Maura McAnney from the Pittsburgh legal recruiting firm McAnney Esposito & Kraybill Associates Inc. said it is true that there are not many positions for corporate attorneys, those companies who are seeking candidates can’t seem to find qualified ones. “Some of the employers that we work with find that they receive many resumes for advertised positions, but find very few qualified applicants,” she said. One reason she cites is that in-house salaries have not kept up with the escalating law firm salaries. “There is often a big gap between what the corporation is willing to offer and what the qualified corporate attorney currently earns,” said McAnney. “It also depends on the level of corporate attorney the corporation is seeking to recruit. There are qualified very junior attorneys and senior attorneys, but due to 9/11 there was a period of about four years when the need for corporate attorneys decreased and [fewer] corporate attorneys were trained during this period.” Turner didn’t take a pay cut to move to Pittsburgh. For her, it was a lateral move in terms of compensation. But she agreed with McAnney that in-house salaries have not kept up with large law firm salaries. “Bonuses and the income potential for in-house jobs are less, especially if you work for nonprofits like I do,” she said. “Of course, people who work in-house at corporations do have the ability to receive stock options which makes their long-term income potential greater, but it’s still hard to compete when large law firms start new lawyers out at $125,000, and offer them the ability to make bonuses. A lot of times in-house lawyers are lucky if they’re making six figures depending on where you are.” McAnney’s firm recruits for corporations nationwide, and she has found that qualified corporate attorneys are limited in supply and motivation almost everywhere. “It can be difficult to find an attorney to relocate because most attorneys do not simply move around,” she added. “The attorney took the bar exam and settled in an area for a reason, usually family. When recruiting in large cities, the compensation gap continues, although not as drastically as in Pittsburgh. The goal is to find an attorney who is motivated to go in-house to take advantage of the benefits offered by employment with a corporation.” Years ago, McAnney said, those benefits were counted in both time and money, but now, the benefits are more in the kind of work in-house attorneys may get to do. “As corporations become more aware of their legal bills, they are more likely to pull an attorney in-house to get involved with the more complicated matters,” she said. “Often, in-house attorneys have told us that they like their jobs because they are closer to the business and service only one client whose needs they deeply understand.” How does the corporate counsel job market in Pittsburgh compare to other cities in the Mid-Atlantic region? In the 2008 Salary Guide from Robert Half Legal, the legal staffing division of Robert Half International, in-house attorneys are one of the five in-demand positions in the legal field along with first year associates, patent attorneys, litigation paralegals and intellectual property legal secretaries. According to the guide, corporations are looking for in-house attorneys to meet ongoing corporate governance requirements and who have regulatory compliance, corporate and securities law, and commercial litigation backgrounds. Robert Half Legal regional vice president, Jim Patton, from the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, has seen more opportunities for corporate counsel and senior counsel positions in the Washington-Baltimore corridor. “We have seen senior counsel positions accelerating at a little faster pace than general counsel positions … of late,” he said. “Although, some of the general counsel positions that we are currently sourcing are a healthy mid-to-high six figures.” Even with the threat of an economic downturn, in-house counsel jobs will always remain in high demand, he said. “Those attorneys who are guiding the legal risk and the legal departments will be looked at on an hour-by-hour basis on how to reduce risks and handle employee issues and financing issues � all of the different aspects that typically fall on the desk of a corporate counsel anyway,” he said. “They will be looked at even more in a downturn.” Julie Goldberg, managing director of the Stamford, Conn., office of Korn/Ferry International, agreed with Patton. “For the most part, a company that is dedicated to having an in-house department will have an in-house department,” she said. “You still need lawyers to do the work and manage risk and keep it safe in the market when it comes to compliance and regulatory mandates, and keeping it safe in terms of its reputation. And so, the roles will continue to be opportunistic.” Patton said that job availability for corporate attorneys depended on the size of the market and the types of companies in those geographic areas. He found that there are a greater variety of available positions in the Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington triangle than in the Pittsburgh area, which does not seem to have quite the variety of companies. “Pittsburgh has a limited type of company that is located there and that creates a glut in the marketplace for corporate attorneys,” he said. One disadvantage of a city like Pittsburgh, according to Goldberg, is that there is no pocket or center of specialties. Similarly, if you compare the current job market for corporate attorneys in New Jersey versus Delaware, she said that there’s much more opportunity for in-house lawyers in New Jersey. “That’s going to be true independent of market conditions because New Jersey is a pharmaceutical corridor where you have various outposts of different companies, like Bristol Myers, Bayer and Shearing,” she said. “Pharma alone provides a very large opportunity for health care lawyers. The opportunities in those sectors alone you will not find in Delaware and even D.C.” She added that finding opportunities in the in-house legal department of reasonably sized companies in Pittsburgh is much more of a challenge for attorneys than finding the same opportunities in Philadelphia and down through the corridor into New Jersey because there is no industry hub there. So what changes are needed in a city that is struggling like Pittsburgh? Harhai had a few solutions. “What makes it hard now is the ratio of lawyers to companies,” he said. “So you have to reduce the number of attorneys or increase the number of companies. You’re not going to reduce the number of lawyers, so you need to increase the number of companies.” To attract more companies, Harhai said, the city has to make it more attractive for businesses to relocate there. “I think that some of the urban renewal incentives that the city is currently working on, such as the biking trail along the waterfront, improving the city’s North Shore area, I think these are the sorts of things that will make the city more attractive to companies coming in,” Harhai said. Harhai also added that improving the transportation system and offering tax breaks or financial incentives for new companies to relocate to Pittsburgh will make it more attractive for businesses. “Once you bring in new companies in your city, there’ll be more jobs and more people who can find work,” he said. “But, without bringing in companies, you have too many attorneys and not enough jobs. That’s just a classic problem in Pittsburgh.” An aging population doesn’t help the city’s image either. “We have very few young people,” he said. “When I talk to people outside of the area, Pittsburgh has the stigma of being an old, aging town and that has to change. Improving the city image will have a good impact and help bring in new business. [The city] needs to focus more on becoming a technology city and remov[ing] its stigma of an old industrial city.” Daniel Casciato is a Pittsburgh-based writer who writes articles on business, finance and law.

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