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As the salary gap between the largest New York City firms and small firms widens, the small shops are forced to find creative methods to convince talented lawyers to join their ranks. Small firms are increasingly unable to compete financially with the $150,000 offered to junior associates and the $200,000 offered to senior associates at the biggest firms. “It’s a real great issue for us. It’s the ultimate challenge,” said Christopher J. Gulotta, of Tarter & Gulotta, a 10-lawyer corporate firm in Manhattan. Although small firms trying to stay competitive in the market have increased their compensation in the last year, it is the quality of life, better work experience and a collegial work environment that they stress to lure both associates and partners away from their high-paying jobs. “The only way a firm our size can stay competitive is by offering our people a nice work environment,” said Howard M. Rubin, the managing partner at Goetz Fitzpatrick Most & Bruckman, a 25-lawyer firm in Manhattan. “We have a zero tolerance policy for people abusing each other,” he said, pointing out that one of the firm’s senior partners was even sent to sensitivity training for rudely treating his secretary. Other lawyers agree. “There is more camaraderie here. We don’t abuse people and we do not have any prima donnas,” said Mark Dreier, of Dreier & Baritz, a litigation boutique in Manhattan specializing in patent law. Also, the work environment can be more relaxed at the smaller firms, where lawyers can bill fewer hours than at the larger shops. Small-firm partners claim that their firms require roughly 1,800 to 2,000 hours per year, rather than 2,200-2,400 that are common at larger firms. “I can’t compete with those salaries. But we can compete in quality of life,” said Rubin. Hands-on experience is another important selling point for small firms. According to Dreier, at his firm an associate will be working directly with a partner and getting real trial experience. “Instead of being part of the wheel they can be the focal point,” agreed Gulotta. “They can come right in and practice law,” he added. Although such marketing techniques can be effective with an audience of frustrated large-firm associates, locating such an audience can be difficult for small firms. GETTING NOTICED Most small firms do not hire associates straight out of law school, so they do not go to the schools to recruit. In turn, young lawyers do not hear about these firms. “We can not afford the time and the money, and our clients won’t tolerate the training curve,” explained Gulotta. Dreier said that his firm will go to law schools to recruit for the first time next year. “Recruiting serves two functions: hiring and getting your name out there,” he said. “It’s time that we have a profile at the law schools,” he added. Yet the most effective way to recruit is through word of mouth, said Dreier. Dreier & Baritz encourages its associates and partners to go to their former large firms to find talented individuals who might be looking for a change. “Happy associates, happy partners is the best way to do recruiting,” he said. For that reason, many of their associates and partners come from the same firms, he said. Dreier also uses headhunters, especially when looking to fill specific positions. For example, he recently hired a patent attorney with a chemical engineering background, whom he found through a headhunter. The headhunter’s fee was 25 percent of the associate’s first-year salary, he said. Headhunters, however, are either too expensive or not effective for many small firms. Rubin said that with a few exceptions he has had generally bad experiences using headhunters to hire associates. E-MAIL RECRUITING Gulotta said that instead of relying on headhunters he sends out an e-mail to 50 lawyers, accountants and brokers asking them for recommendations. Those professionals have constant contact with lawyers, and have directed him to highly qualified individuals looking for a change, he said. Another creative recruiting tool is allowing lawyers a more flexible schedule in order to entice them to come to the firm. For example, Dreier said that he has one partner and two associates who came to Dreier & Baritz because they were permitted to work part-time. Two work three days a week and one works four days. “This is a great way to compete with the big firm. You can attract very good people who are looking for a more flexible schedule,” he said. Said Rubin: “There will always be ball players who’d rather play in Milwaukee than in New York. We’re Milwaukee in the legal market.”

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