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FROM THE JOB FRONT

FROM THE JOB FRONT is EmplawyerNet's monthly newsletter covering the latest developments in the area of legal employment -- and a few other things. FROM THE JOB FRONT is published as a service of EmplawyerNet, the online interactive legal employment network.

SEPTEMBER 2000

NEWS FROM THE JOB FRONT

Largest Corporate Legal Departments

General Counsel Salaries Continue to Rise

Law Schools Edge Out Business Schools for Applicants

Demand and Benefits Escalate for Legal Support Staff

OTHER FEATURES
Job Tips: Credentials Consciousness

Legal Trivia

Quote, UnQuote

One More Thing Before You Go


LARGEST CORPORATE LEGAL DEPARTMENTS

A survey of corporate legal departments finds that Citigroup Inc. has the largest collection of in-house attorneys with 1,200 worldwide. Citigroup is followed by Liberty Mutual Group (786 attorneys), State Farm Insurance Co. (735) and General Electric (691). Exxon was number five but will jump up this year upon the completion of its merger with Mobil. Twenty of the top 200 corporate legal departments are in the property and casualty insurance business. The average number of lawyers with the top 200 departments is 129.

Corporate Legal Times

GENERAL COUNSEL SALARIES CONTINUE TO RISE

The average cash compensation earned by chief legal officers at America's 200 largest corporate legal departments is $323,000. That represents an almost 24 percent increase over the 1999 figure. Senior counsel in management positions in the 200 legal departments earn an average of just under $185,000 a year. This is a 5 percent increase over last year. The average number of years of experience at the general counsel level is 22.1 years and 18.8 years at the senior counsel level.

Corporate Legal Times

LAW SCHOOLS EDGE OUT BUSINESS SCHOOLS FOR APPLICANTS

Throughout the 90s, top-ten US business schools received more applications for admission than did the top-ten US law schools. Law schools, however, have now taken the lead over when it comes to applications. At most top business schools, the number of applicants fell last spring. At the University of Chicago, for example, the fall was 24 percent. Cornell and Stanford dropped 23 and 18 percent respectively. At the same time, law school applications are up 3 percent this year over last year. This was the second year in a row that law school numbers were up. The increase is helping reverse the 1991 - 1998 trend during which there was a 30 percent drop in law school applications.

New York Times

DEMAND AND BENEFITS ESCALATE FOR LEGAL SUPPORT STAFF

Lawyers are not the only ones benefiting from the hot legal market. The demand has spread to legal support staff. Many law firms are increasing pay, offering signing bonuses, flexible work schedules, investment opportunities and even law school tuition. In the San Francisco Bay Area, legal secretaries at larger law firms with five years of experience are earning in the $50,000 - $55,000 range. Paralegals are usually starting at close to $30,000 and earning as high as $90,000.

The Recorder

JOB TIPS: CREDENTIALS CONSCIOUSNESS

Attorneys are credentials conscious. They always have been. It is in their nature to scrutinize each other's pedigree.

There are lots of law school rankings, and, naturally, lots of opinions on which schools are best. Different surveys use different standards. The only consistency is that certain schools - among them, Harvard, Yale and Stanford - are always near the top of the list. But even numero uno varies and it is virtually impossible to reach consensus on even a top twenty law school list.

Nonetheless, a "top twenty" law school is a frequent hiring standard and may have much to do with the path of your legal career. Though each firm has a different hiring requirement, studying a firm's Martindale-Hubbell listing will give you an idea of what law schools it deems "acceptable." Even so, there are exceptions.

We know of one prominent West Coast firm that will not hire graduates of the school their lead partner attended, a curiosity that hits at the tyranny in the top twenty concept.

Initial screening in some firms is based on credentials alone and though you may feel your law school education was sound, and even though you performed well and demonstrated true talent for the profession, some prospective employers may not deem that sufficient if your alma mater is not on their list.

The largest law firms in the country are consistent. Their members will almost all be graduates of the top fifteen or twenty law schools in the land. We say "almost all" because in any given geographic area there are law schools whose reputations are regarded highly in the region but which have not gained national prominence. These schools are represented in their regions by graduates who work alongside alums of the best known law schools.

Medium and smaller firms are less predictable in their credential make up. Some hire like large firms. Others show preferences for certain schools almost as if they were a fraternity. Others list graduates of only second-tier schools. Still other firms blend highly credentialed lawyers with those of less stellar backgrounds. These firms, one could assume, place a higher premium on the individual than on academic performance and are willing to acknowledge that not all the bright, capable people are graduates of the top twenty schools.

When you begin a job search, look carefully at Martindale-Hubbell. If you want to work for a firm whose members are all Ivy League and you graduated from Tulane, for example, recognize the barriers and consider ways to circumvent them. Perhaps your expertise is peculiarly suited to their practice or the firm may be considering a branch office in New Orleans. Knowing the firm and the backgrounds of its lawyers will better prepare you to present yourself.

Finally, be aware that in some instances the prejudices are absolute. Graduates of unaccredited law schools, for example, have virtually no chance of gaining an interview at the top national firms. That's harsh, but it's a fact. Unless you have a contact within a firm, the first level of screening is often an individual whose power to reject is based on academics.

These standards are, to a certain degree, changing. This is partly for the fact that firms are becoming aware of the restrictions of such tunnel vision. Also, as a firm's hiring needs increase, they will often have no choice but to broaden the horizons of their search. This is especially true at the lateral level where there is more to go on in evaluating a recruit. As such, you should be aggressive in your job search while understanding that some firms will still adhere to a very narrow doctrine.

LEGAL TRIVIA

Eighty percent of incoming Harvard Law School students express a desire to practice public-interest law. What percentage work in that sector after graduation?
  
(a)35 percent
(b)25 percent
(c)15 percent
(d)5 percent

(Answer at the end of the newsletter)

QUOTE

"I have firms that can't inhale enough associates. They'll whisper to us, 'We'll compromise our standards'."

    --New York legal recruiter Alisa Levin in The National Law Journal

UNQUOTE

ONE MORE THING BEFORE YOU GO...

A recently completed survey by Interim Legal Services and Harris Interactive concludes that 45 percent of legal professionals say the quality of their lives has declined in the past five years. Lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries were included in the study.

  • Trivia Answer:

    Five percent.


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