Alternative Biglaw and In-House Career Tracks
In today’s legal industry — in California and elsewhere — alternative career tracks have become increasingly normalized. There are a number of legitimate reasons undergirding the decision to seek an alternative career trajectory in Biglaw (or at an in-house legal department at a corporation), whether due to heightened responsibilities at home or a lack of interest in pursuing an intense, traditional partner track.
Here at Garb Jaffe & Associates, we encourage attorney-candidates to speak with one of our experienced Los Angeles legal recruiter for further guidance. Our recruiters can identify compatible positions at firms and in-house legal departments (that offer excellent alternative career tracks). We understand the California legal industry front-to-back, and as such, are particularly well-equipped to help you secure an alternative position that allows you ample opportunity to grow as an attorney.
Consider the following.
Non-Partner Senior Associate Options
Generally speaking, the traditional path in Biglaw involved a seven-year associate slog that would — eventually — lead to a partner promotion. You’d have to work your way up from junior associate, to mid-level associate, to senior associate, then partner. In most Biglaw firms, this was an up-or-out system. Simply put, if you were not promoted to partner, you were expected to gracefully resign and leave the firm, and seek opportunities elsewhere.
Expectations in the legal industry have changed drastically, however, even in the hyper-competitive Biglaw environment. Now, it’s not uncommon for attorneys to stay on with their firm after having been “passed over” for a partner promotion. Biglaw firms are increasingly encouraging such associates to stay on as senior associates — these associates continue to receive linear pay increases, and may be given a slightly different role (less client-facing).
If you’re not interested in playing “office politics,” a cushy senior associate role may be a worthwhile alternative, particularly if you are given enough flexibility to choose your own projects.
Permanent Associate Programs
In recent years, many Biglaw firms have been engaging in a form of low-cost “internal outsourcing” by offering permanent associate programs, which is an entirely different career track. Permanent associate programs aren’t a great choice for everyone, but for a certain segment of attorney-candidates — those who are okay with a low-paying position that allows them to more effectively balance their life commitments — it is a reasonable alternative career track.
What does the permanent associate track entail?
Generally speaking, permanent associates are paid about 40-60 percent less than standard associates (with the same level of experience). Further, permanent associates may work in separate facilities from the main office, in smaller regional cities. This can be a good compromise, however, as it means that the permanent associate can afford a reasonably high-end lifestyle on their lower salary.
Permanent associates typically have little-to-no client-facing responsibility, and may be tasked with research-oriented assignments, for the most part. This separation of concerns can quickly lead to career stagnation, so tread carefully! Depending on the firm, such associates may even be given the option of working remotely.
Part-time or Temporary Contracts
More and more, firms are attempting to accommodate attorneys who have suddenly been saddled with increased non-work responsibilities, such as children or a family medical emergency. These firms would rather hire (or keep) a skilled attorney on a part-time or temporary basis, than lose out on the opportunity. Part-time and temporary contracts can be difficult to find — for this reason, it’s worth consulting with an experienced legal recruiter who has extensive networks in firms located throughout the state of California.
Making the Transition to an In-House Position
As a rule, in-house positions tend to be less demanding than Biglaw positions. This is not absolutely true across-the-board — every in-house department is different — but if you’re interested in growing as an attorney while avoiding the intensity of the Biglaw lifestyle, a great option is to make the transition to an in-house department in an industry that you can see yourself specializing.
Given that in-house departments can vary quite substantially from a “culture” perspective, it’s helpful to use a legal recruiter to identify in-house positions that are compatible with your particular needs and preferences.
Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Legal Recruiter for Further Advice and Assistance
If you’re interested in transitioning out of your current position and moving to a firm (or in-house legal department) that offers an alternative career track that is more suitable for your particular needs, get in touch with an experienced Los Angeles legal recruiter here at Garb Jaffe & Associates. Our recruiters have spent decades assisting attorney candidates with every phase of the hiring process, from identifying compatible positions to cover letter writing to interview preparation.
Here at Garb Jaffe & Associates, we understand that qualified attorney candidates — now, more than ever — may have divergent career preferences. With our extensive networks throughout the California legal industry, we can help you tease apart “branding” from “reality,” thus enabling you to secure a position with a firm (or in-house legal department) where an alternative career track will not result in stagnation.
Call (310) 207-0727 to setup a consultation with one of our recruiters. We look forward to assisting you in your search.