First they got firms to work with them without paying cash. Instead they offered the promise of profits tomorrow, tempting the firms with share options. Now its seems the so-called dot coms are taking the law firms' rising IT stars, not only to take them through to their IPO, but beyond. In short, they are offering some of the best and brightest minds in the profession a new sort of partnership, a stake in the burgeoning new media economy and a stake in their own company with an unwritten future.
This is not the first time that The Lawyer has commented on the trend among younger lawyers to scan the jobs pages with more than a passing interest. Whether it is looking at a move to a US firm, a position in-house or even opting out altogether, the big firms' slippery pole is losing its lustre for some.
A possible clue lies in the comment of Chris Hoyle at KLegal, who has seen colleagues move to the start-ups. "The appeal is for lawyers who want to do more than simply crank the handle on contracts," he says. The promise of exciting and uncharted territory, not only in terms of the legal work demanded but also the business paths the dot coms are forging, offers the sort of challenges many junior lawyers see as the preserve of those who have served their time.
A second clue lies in an advertisement that recently appeared in a new media magazine. A new site focusing on the burgeoning venture capital industry was recruiting a lawyer to manage the business. And as with all such appointments at the early stage in the development of a new media business, the roles and responsibilities were vague and general. The company wanted a lawyer to come in and write his or her own job description.
Before senior lawyers or HR teams pore over their balance sheets and try to squeeze a few more pounds out in an attempt to buy young lawyers' loyalty, they might do well to ask them what it is that's attracting them to this new business world. It might well be the stock options, but then it might be more than that.