Times Change . . .

Times have changed. While the death of the Dot-coms may be greatly exaggerated, there is no question that since the broad stock market sell-off last summer we have witnessed a real change in the legal market, both for in-house and law firms. This change has significant repercussions for how candidates should now approach their job search.

In spite of all the news about lay-offs, decreased venture funding, and the dried-out IPO pipeline, there are still quality in-house positions available in Silicon Valley. However, you are not likely to find that sexy General Counsel position for a hot young start-up dangling from the lowest branch. Many of the larger companies are replenishing their ranks after losing lawyers to the Dot-com frenzy of 2000, but most of these are mid-level positions with fairly modest stock option packages. This leads to the first rule candidates should keep in mind as the first quarter of 2001 draws to a close: adjust your expectations about the type of position you can land to reflect current market conditions.

In this type of a market, candidates need to be more mindful of how their resume presents itself to the client. Now is a good time for candidates to polish up their resumes and transform them into more powerful and informative tools for their candidacy. Because clients can now be more picky, they are likely to screen out resumes that are too general, or that require too much effort to identify your strengths. Specificity is king. This leads to Rule #2: work with your headhunter to refine your resume. Don't assume that decent credentials and a sprinkling of anonymous licensing agreements will get the job done.

It is not too surprising that as the job market tightens, the relative bargaining dynamic between corporate employer and candidate changes as well. Lavish relocation packages and generous option grants are not the order of the day. Candidates who come back with counter proposals once they receive their offers are not getting a very warm reception. Employers now have many more candidates to choose from, and after several years of being on the receiving end of candidate demands, they are anxious to flex their new-found market muscle. Rule #3: if you receive an offer, do not assume it is an opening salvo in a negotiating exercise. There is a high quality candidate right behind you who is ready to accept what the employer puts on the table.

The law firm market has tightened as well. Many law firms have slowed their general hiring down to a crawl. Some are pursuing lay-offs, both officially and unofficially. But, it pays to scratch beneath the surface. While many of these firms may not be looking for general corporate/securities associates, they are hiring in a more focused fashion in a number of practice areas, including intellectual property and certain types of litigation. Salaries are high, and firms are undoubtedly being more discriminating in who they will interview. It pays to cast a wide net in these times and keep Rule #1 firmly in mind.

It's anybody's guess how long these market conditions will last. There is an old saying that a moment a trend is identified is the same moment it has probably run its course. There is a distinct possibility that the second and third quarters of 2001 will witness a loosening of the capital markets and increased demand for corporate legal services. In the meantime, there are still good opportunities out there-just put yourself


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