Question & Answer
If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, Why Am I Always in the Pits?
November 20, 2012
I graduated law school this spring, and started working for a firm that was rumored to be in financial trouble. As it turns out, the rumors were true, and it looks like the firm will merge sometime in the near future. Although I have been assurred otherwise, it appears as if the firm may be "cherry-picked" during the merger.
Since my working group consists of the most valued partners and associates of the firm, I am substantially certain that our group will be merged intact. However, I chose this law firm because my skills fit well into the firm's practice. If a merger substantially changes the character of the firm, my feeling is that I would no longer be interested in working for the firm.
Given that such a merger would most likely flood the market with resumes from the firm, I am considering a move to New York (Note, I came to LA only because I liked the firm). I have decent grades from a top fifteen law school and am currently in the litigation department. How difficult would it be for me to find a job in NYC?
Thank you for your help.
Here is the most important piece of advice I want to give to you if the rumors of a merger do come true: keep your day job.
Of course, that is only true if your practice group is "cherry-picked" and you are asked to stay with the group. So, let's start there for a moment and then work through all the issues you have presented to us.
First of all, even though the rumors of the merger have turned out to be true and your firm is in serious merger talks, until the merger actually is finalized, there are still more things that can derail the merger than can make it happen. So, maybe it might happen but with your firm in financial trouble there may be far too many issues to allow a full-firm merger to occur.
That brings us to the matter of "cherry-picking" which your crystal ball tells you will be the way of the world for your firm. I would have to agree with you. And since the litigation department is the most profitable in your firm, that is the practice group that certainly will be asked to join the new firm. However, that is where your thinking goes a bit askew. You have only been working for your firm for a couple of months and you already sense that this new firm is not a place where you would want to work. If you are feeling this way then why wouldn't some of the partners in the litigation department be feeling exactly the same way and perhaps confidentially have their resumes out on the street right now? If this is such a profitable group of partners and the merger is now public knowledge, I can assure you that headhunters and partners at other firms are placing calls to these partners and tempting them with talks of why they should come elsewhere.
And to digress for a moment, why did you join a firm that was rumored to be in financial distress? Was that your only offer or did you just like the people you met that you chose to ignore the signs that the firm was not long for this world?
Okay, let's say that the litigation group does stay together and they all join the new firm. Keep in mind that there are already associates working there and some of them are first year associates, just like you. When the partners from your firm negotiate their deals to come over to the new firm, will you be a part of that negotiation? Will the new firm be willing to take in all of the associates from the now-defunct firm, including very junior first year associates? I hope you have proven yourself to be very indispensable over these past few months of employment.
Don't be so hasty to say that you would no longer be interested in working for this newly formed firm. My advice to you is that you should only be hoping and praying that you are part of the group that is merged into the new firm. You are a junior first year associate and as such, the last one to be considered. I'm sorry to be so harsh but that is the reality of the situation.
How difficult would it be to find a job in New York? Well, if you are unemployed, I would say extremely difficult. Decent grades from a top fifteen law school…what does that mean? Do you have any C's on your resume? If so, that is really going to hurt you on a search in New York.
Did you sit for the New York bar? Don't even consider applying for a litigation position at a New York firm if you are not admitted in New York. And the next question you will be asked is if you know the New York courts which I suspect you do not unless you summered at a New York firm which might have given you some understanding of those courts.
As an unemployed first year associate with only a decent transcript and just several months of out-of-town experience interviewing in a very tight job market such as New York City, you simply will not stand up to the other litigation associate candidates who are on a job search.
My advice to you is until the merger is complete (and that could take months), be the best associate in the department. Make yourself indispensible and also very visible to the partners and senior associates. Do whatever it takes to either be asked to join the new firm or else be asked to join a group of partners who go elsewhere. The point is, stay employed.
Then, if you want to quietly and confidentially start looking for a job in New York, make sure you are admitted to the NY bar and find a recruiter or two who will look out for you and let you know when opportunities arise that could be right for you. Best wishes!
And best wishes to everyone out there for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
Ann M. Israel