Big Law career guide: The latest news on pay, hiring, and hot practice areas

The business of law is going through some major changes. 

Some Big Law firms have made layoffs, others have rolled back compensation cuts that they imposed earlier in the year, and a select few are giving surprises bonuses to overworked first years. Meanwhile, firms are increasingly turning to tech to help boost productivity and cut costs. And aspiring lawyers are facing a lot of uncertainty thanks to virtual learning and a delayed firm recruiting timeline. 

We've been tracking hiring trends and compensation changes at Big Law firms. We've also rounded up the hot practice areas that are helping bolster firm's revenue — and that young lawyers can lean into. Here's the latest. 

Compensation

  • We're tracking which top law firms are delaying their first-year associate classes. Here's what you need to know about new start dates, pay, and benefits so far.
  • Davis Polk announces surprise associate bonuses of up to $40,000, becoming the latest firm to tout its financial strength amid the pandemic
  • Female partners in Big Law make $332,000 less than male partners on average. But 1 change has been shown to increase women's salaries by more than 40% — and boost their happiness as well.
  • Davis Polk just abandoned its strict seniority-based pay scheme, putting pressure on holdout law firms still using an 'old school' lockstep structure to follow suit
  • There's a 'fundamental shift' happening at Big Law firms, which are laying off workers even as they're raising pay
  • Law firms cut pay by as much as 50% at the height of the pandemic. Now at least 6 are bumping comp back up.

How to get hired

  • How to stand out during Morgan Lewis's individually-tailored virtual interview process, according to the Big Law firm's recruiting manager
  • How to impress interviewers and land a job at elite global law firm Baker McKenzie, according to its recruitment director, hiring partner, and 2 industry recruiters
  • Here's what it takes to get a job at elite law firm Latham & Watkins, according to its hiring chairs and 2 top industry recruiters
  • Industry insiders say these are the 17 must-read books for aspiring lawyers and young attorneys

Business & practices 

  • 7 lawyers helping Google fight landmark antitrust charges in a battle that could stretch on for years, from in-house pros to DOJ veterans
  • Pressure is mounting on Big Law to combat climate change as 600 students pledge to boycott Paul Weiss for defending oil giant Exxon
  • Greenberg Traurig just poached 5 more privacy and data-security lawyers, bulking up in a practice area that's booming as clients rush to navigate new regulation and safeguard sensitive information
  • Meet 16 bankers, lawyers, and capital providers helping engineer a $40 billion black-check craze that's fast-tracking companies to public markets
  • Elite law firms are rushing into the 'SPAC' craze, looking to make hundreds of millions of dollars in the process — here's how it works
  • Big Law may have dodged a catastrophe in 2020, but the next 6 months are critical. Law firm leaders predict how the rest of the year will play out.
  • 9 recession-proof legal practice areas set to boom, according to top lawyers and recruiters

Big Law careers

  • These are 8 of the hottest Silicon Valley law firms to work at if you want to enter the booming tech market
  • Here's how exit paths to Big Law — and a partner-sized paycheck — for Trump administration lawyers are shaping up right now
  • We talked to 6 legal recruiters about the top hiring trends at major law firms if you're thinking of making a move in the middle of the recession
  • How 2 general counsels made the leap from Big Law firms Ropes & Gray and Sullivan & Cromwell to the world of fast-growing fintechs
  • Students are weighing the pros and cons of virtual law school. Here's why some are deferring, and what that means for job prospects.
  • We're tracking which top law firms are delaying their first-year associate classes. Here's what you need to know about new start dates, pay, and benefits so far.
  • Top law firms are delaying their first-year associate classes. Here are 3 ways law school graduates can stay on top of their game in the meantime.

Layoffs

  • Inside the struggles at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, the once high-flying law firm that's now slashing staff and losing rainmakers

On-campus recruiting

  • 5 top law firms like White & Case and Mayer Brown run through their summer associate recruitment plans, from using '3D resumes' to interviewing students from lower-ranked schools
  • On-campus interviews for law students are getting postponed and moving online. Here's the latest on how Columbia, NYU, and 4 other law schools are reworking the high-stakes process.

Diploma privilege and the future of the bar exam

  • The exam software company that law grads accuse of botching the online October bar is raking in $2 million in fees — and could earn even more in February
  • Hundreds of test-takers weighed in on the virtual version of the New York bar exam and nearly 75% described the experience as negative. Here are all their complaints.
  • Here are 5 alternatives to the current bar exam as reimagined by legal industry insiders, from making it open book to postgraduate apprenticeships
  • New York's top judge is sticking with an online bar exam even as complaints of tech issues mount and other states let law grads skip the test and still practice law

How Big Law is using legal tech

  • How Big Law firms like Baker McKenzie and Polsinelli are teaming up with legal tech companies to battle a $10 billion threat to the market
  • Top law firms are starting to share exclusive data with clients to help them win legal disputes and clinch M&A deals. Here's why they're giving it away for free.
  • How Dentons, the world's largest law firm, is using tech to boost its pro-bono caseload by nearly 40%
  • A legal-tech startup used by firms like Davis Polk is harnessing AI to analyze hundreds of police contracts in a bid to push for reform

Diversity and inclusion

  • An inside look at how Big Law firm Perkins Coie built up a diverse attorney base, winning major clients like Microsoft and Intel
  • 2 key steps law firms must take to boost diversity — and how being inclusive can help land major clients like Microsoft
  • The lawyer who sued Proskauer for $50 million over gender discrimination just launched her own firm. She lays out her vision for shaking up the legal industry by abolishing billable hour targets and hiring mainly women and minorities.

Learn more about the financial services industry.

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