Associate/Counsel Placement

Associate & Counsel Placement

Historically, new law school graduates joined a law firm, spent a certain number of years (usually six to ten) working for that firm, and then were considered for partnership. Associates either were elected to full equity partnership status, or turned down. If “passed over” they were expected to leave the firm within a reasonable period of time. This one-tier partnership and “up-or-out” system began eroding in the 1980s as the increasingly competitive legal marketplace required new approaches to the traditional partnership system.  Since then, law firms devised multiple layers of associates, counsel, and equity and non-equity partners, with varying titles and attributes.

These days, for senior associates with skills and abilities valuable to the firm but not quite ready for promotion even to non-equity partner status, many firms created positions with titles such as “counsel,” “special counsel,” or “senior attorney.” From a business perspective, the up-or-out policy was unwise with regard to these associates. Given the costly investment in training and development of these associates and their institutional and client knowledge, they handle relatively sophisticated work with minimal supervision and, thus, are profitable for the firm. Many of these lawyers become partners in their firms at a later date; others find their prospects of further promotion at the firm unlikely.  In those cases, these attorneys may find that a move to another law firm affords them the opportunity for further career development.

Click the link below to search through our many opportunities at the associate and counsel level. Occasionally we may also have positions that are not listed for a variety of reasons, so feel free to also submit your resume for general consideration. New positions get added every day, so even if we don't have the perfect position for you now, we may contact you in the future.

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What SeltzerFontaine can do for you

If your career plan calls for a job search, SeltzerFontaine can help you make the right moves.


We can cast a wide net

It’s essential to have an ideal career goal and certainly important to pursue it, but you should keep an open mind about other opportunities within your skill area. Law firms and in-house legal departments aren’t the only employers out there; there also are government agencies, non-profits and public interest groups, among others. Furthermore, you should broaden the geographic scope of your search as much as possible to maximize your opportunities.

Although the majority of positions we fill are with law firms, we represent firms of various sizes from global giant to local boutique, and even virtual law firms.  We also handle in-house placements and an occasional non-profit or governmental search. SeltzerFontaine works with a wide variety of legal employers throughout California and across the country.

We assess your credentials 

SeltzerFontaine matches your background with the right opportunity. We look at your work experience and credentials, but also consider whether any of your tangential skills or interests could prove useful. We look for what makes you a unique candidate. For instance, an engineering or science background is desirable, if not required, for many areas of intellectual property and environmental practice. A medical background is useful in a healthcare, personal injury, or medical malpractice position. Knowledge of a foreign language could be a plus, as could experience in writing or lecturing. A seemingly irrelevant skill may set you apart from the rest of the crowd. For example, if you’re an avid and long-time surfer who is applying to a firm that represents manufacturers of surfboards or specialized sports clothing, you may have an edge over someone who is a couch potato because you understand the clients’ business. We know our clients, so once we assess your credentials, we send a well-written and targeted cover letter and résumé to each of the opportunities you identify, succinctly stating what you offer.

We consider culture

Employers hire candidates with whom they are comfortable, which quite often means those who are most like themselves. Again, since we know our clients, SeltzerFontaine can help you identify which firms or companies have lawyers with backgrounds similar to your own in terms of academics and interests. Some firms, for example, favor certain colleges or law schools, judicial clerkships, or even a particular branch of military service. Each organization has its own particular style or culture, and a candidate, as well as a future employer, needs to assess the likelihood of a good fit. It’s tempting to play down this aspect of the job search, but it is an important factor in your future success.

We polish your written presentation

SeltzerFontaine assists you with putting together a tailored, focused cover letter and résumé for each position you target. It’s important to demonstrate how your background fits the job and how you, in particular, can bring value to the organization. We don’t waste precious résumé space on extraneous information, and make sure your documents are letter-perfect and easy on the eye so they make a positive impact.

For senior associate and counsel candidates, SeltzerFontaine also coaches you through the preparation of a business development plan, if that is appropriate for the next step of your career.

We provide market intelligence

SeltzerFontaine maintains an extensive database of material about our clients and the legal market. A candidate who shows up for an interview armed with specific knowledge of the prospective employer makes a favorable impression. We can provide you with data regarding size, structure, representative clients, recent major cases and/or transactions, and financial status of our clients, as well as about the individual interviewers you are scheduled to meet. In many cases, we can even tell you where to park!

We help you ace the interviews

SeltzerFontaine prepares you for the various types of interviews you might encounter such as phone or video interviews, screenings or full-rounds, and coffee or mealtime interviews. We can also suggest some carefully designed questions for you to ask to demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of the potential employer. We will coach you so that you communicate what potential employers really want to know, which is how you can help them accomplish their business goals.

We handle follow-up and close the deal

The thank you note is up to you, but SeltzerFontaine handles rest of the follow-up after your interviews to make sure the process stays on track.  More importantly, we help you negotiate and evaluate offers, choose wisely, and settle into your new role for long term success.

Each of these subjects, and many more, is covered in detail in our various blog posts. You can see the most recent posts relevant to associates and counsel below. In addition, SeltzerFontaine is with you every step of the way so that you make all the right moves in your job search.


Blog Articles Regarding Associates and Counsel

  • The Post-Pandemic Job Interview Part Two: What Candidates Should be Asking Now

    Originally posted on Due diligence into their target law firms by lateral candidates is even more important in the post-COVID era. The way a law firm handled the economic shutdown and reopening, as well as its management and financial posture afterward, are vital considerations when determining which firm would…

  • The Post-Pandemic Job Interview Part One: What Prospective Employers Should be Asking Now

    Originally published on There’s no question that COVID-19 changed the world and your interviewing strategy should reflect this new reality. Prospective employers can learn much about the candidates under consideration by exploring how they handled the resultant business shutdown. Digging deeper into lateral prospects’ work experience during the pandemic…

  • Competing for Diverse Talent

    As corporate clients more often consider the diversity and inclusion policies of law firms when selecting counsel to represent them, competition to recruit minority talent is fierce. To satisfy their desire for outside counsel that meet their desired diversity and inclusion goals, general counsel expand their searches to include smaller,…

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