Public Finance In 2023: What’s The Hiring Picture Look Like?

Are there signs that point to a healthy future for hiring in public finance? Is it the hiring of bond counsels, lawyers, bankers - what should people look for? Find out more.

What’s the hiring picture look like for 2023 in public finance?  

If I was the Great Kreskin, I could answer that; however, I also know the Great Kreskin had the ability to read the signs.  Johnny Carson’s Carnac the Magnificent was a portrayal of the amazing Kreskin and was able to take clues away by relating to his sidekick Ed McMahon.  Well, I do not have a sidekick, but I too have a way to read the clues.  In Municipal Bond Investing during the early 80’s I was taught as a banker to look at the 30-year treasury as a bellwether indicator to determine where rates were heading.  I have asked myself over the years if is there a bellwether indicator for public finance recruiting. The answer is clearly yes. Let’s look into the hiring of bond counsels, 103 lawyers, and what it all means.

The Bellwether 

What is a bellwether? In the olden days, shepherds chose a wether, a specific sheep to lead the flock. They put a bell around the neck of the wether; presumably so they, and perhaps the sheep, could hear the leader of the herd and track the flock of sheep as they were grazing, never to lose contact with them.  What is this bellwether that I am referring to?  The answer is the hiring of bond counsels.  Every year there has been an increase in demand for bond counsels, and there has been an increase in the number of placements I would do regularly for all public finance disciplines.  Why is this correlation so strong, and what are the trends now?

The Area Of Discipline To Watch: The Hiring Of Bond Counsels

First, the number of firms that have reached out to H Friedman Search over the last six months has increased dramatically looking for and hiring of bond counsels, from associates to lateral partners in all areas of the discipline.  Bond counsels at all levels are the first to be involved in any new project whether a refund or new money transaction.  It does not matter if the eventual deals will be sold, negotiated, or competitive.  It does not matter if the deals turn out to be private placements or direct purchases.  What does matter is the amount of activity this portends.  Why? The bond counsel will be the first to hear of any new projects as they are the individuals first needed to work on any municipal financing project to start the flow of money down the road for project completion.

The Ripple Effect After Noticing The Hiring Of Bond Counsels

If I am getting more calls from all-size firms throughout the United States in this discipline, I am confident in saying that there is a lot of work on the future horizon.  Now let’s put aside the hiring of bond counsels and look at the movement of the 103 lawyers.  Over the last year, we have seen an unprecedented amount of movement by 103 lawyers as they are now jockeying into positions for their future.  Firms have been paying up for these prized employees, thus causing the movement and the domino effect.  As you are all aware a bond counsel Red Book firm cannot maintain its status and ratings in the marketplace without the coveted and dedicated 103 lawyer.  If by chance you lose your 103 lawyer to another firm, then you must indeed replace that one at your firm.  In addition, more firms are grooming new 103 lawyers, even transitioning associates without LLMs, and teaching them the 103 practices.   So, more and more firms are now looking for junior 103 lawyers as well as senior attorneys in this field. Again, another predictor of where the market for hiring is heading for all public finance professionals.

Looking Ahead

By looking at the signs with the hiring of bond counsels and 103 lawyers, there appears to be a definite need for that special niche-oriented public finance counsel or banker that is confident in his/her ability to bring their expertise and for producing originators new business in 20223.  Before concluding there is one trend of note that is also starting.  Public finance firms are looking for bankers that are out of the ordinary: traditional municipal bankers but more on this next week.


If you would like to discuss your options, please reach out for a confidential conversation at 760-477-1284 or email at [email protected]. He can also be reached on LinkedIn. Harlan publishes a blog every Thursday here. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here, which is a compilation of our weekly blogs, so you never miss one. You can find our listing in the “supplier and services” section of the Red Book under the title of “executive recruiting.”

About Harlan Friedman, JD & Founding Member, H. Friedman Search LLC. Harlan is a thirty-year veteran Public Finance Banker turned recruiter who specializes in the placement of all levels Public Finance Bankers, Healthcare Bankers, Municipal Advisors, Compliance Officers, Issuers, and Bond Counsels.