As corporate and real estate work began to dry up during the recession, many young associates were forced to turn their attention to other practice areas, leaving a dearth of young transactional lawyers now that firms are looking to hire them again, according to firm leaders and legal recruiters.
"We just went through a search to hire somebody and it was difficult to find a candidate," said Maury B. Reiter, managing principal of Blue Bell, Pa.-based Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein.
The problem, Reiter said, is that when the economy took a nosedive beginning in 2008, large law firms found themselves with a glut of young associates in their sluggish transactional practices.
The firms responded by moving many of those associates to other, busier practices and by either significantly reducing or completely halting associate hiring, according to Reiter.
Now, as Reiter's firm sees corporate work starting to pick up and once again finds itself in need of associates in those practices, the result is a noticeable lack of young lawyers with transactional experience from which to choose.
"They stopped making them in 2008 and all the ones who were doing that type of work in 2008 transitioned into something else I guess," Reiter said.
According to Reiter, his firm is now forced to train young associates "from scratch, which is always a challenge because we're not geared toward having extra time in our schedules."
The upside, however, is that as corporate work rebounds, the void in experienced corporate associates should begin to fill in again "fairly quickly," Reiter said.
"It's like anything else," he said. "I think people steered away and now they're going to go back into it."
Reiter noted that large firms are likely finding themselves having to rebuild their corporate practices after dispersing their associates elsewhere over the past few years.