Marketability at each stage of your legal career

March 13, 2018

Junior lawyers often ask us: “What is the market like for someone at my level of call?” Your marketability depends on number of objective and subjective variables and also the types of options you wish to pursue.

While there are many dynamic (market conditions) and subjective variables (pedigree, ability to interview, personal connections, etc.) that impact a lawyer’s career, which require case-by-case assessment, it can be worth understanding and planning for the general objective and envrionmental factors that impact your marketability at each stage of your legal career.

Generally, in a law firm environment, we can break down potential hiring needs into three categories: a lawyer to junior other senior lawyers (junior), lawyers without a book of business who can operate independently (mid-level-to-senior), and lawyers who are expected to have a book of business (senior). In-house legal departments mirror the aforementioned trajectory, but we can roughly replace “book of business” with “leadership and management skills”.

Junior lawyers typically have less abundant options from years zero to two, for both in-house and private practice opportunities. This is (at least) partly because very junior lawyers are more expensive than articling students but still typically require a fair degree of training and mentorship. In-house opportunities do not regularly present for very junior lawyers, especially in smaller markets, as in-house legal departments often operate lean and prefer to have their lawyers immediately able to offer substantive advice across various areas.

Mid-to-senior lawyers are usually the most sought after demographic for in-house and private practice opportunities. Most in-house and private practice job postings focus on lawyers who are between three and seven years of call. Lawyers in this category are expected to be functional, independent, yet still have opportunity for long-term growth. Accordingly, this period represents an optimal time for lawyers to consider calibrating their career trajectory.

Opportunities for senior lawyers, without leadership skills or a book of business, become more limited over time. Senior lawyers are either expected to be bringing in business or managing/leading a team. Certain senior lawyers are simply expected to focus and improve upon their legal expertise. However, such lawyers ought to be able to demonstrate that their seniority and degree of expertise can actually deliver increased value to clients, or else employers and clients alike will naturally be inclined to retain more junior counsel.

Understanding your options at each stage of your legal career can help you plan your practice development and empower you to proactively seek environments that optimize your trajectory. Despite the broad themes presented here, your options at any given time are largely driven by a range of ever-changing factors, so feel free to give us a call to discuss your specific circumstances.


David Namkung, Partner