Why work with a legal recruiter?

Why work with a legal recruiter?

Legal recruiters bring many benefits to your job search

Looking for a new career opportunity can be like taking on another full-time job. The networking, job postings, cover letters and resumes, unexplained/unacknowledged delays, and the interviews can all take their toll and add to a sometimes stressful process.

That’s where a legal recruiter can step in to help.

A legal recruiting (or legal search) firm assists attorneys in exploring their employment options by matching your skillsets to your A-list of prospective employers. At Thomas Jones Consulting, I specialize in attorney recruitment. I work with law firms and in-house legal departments to place associates, partners, and in-house counsel in Washington, DC, New York City, and California.

By working with a recruiting firm, you have the opportunity to have your materials reviewed by and to connect with a variety of hiring managers and attorneys interested in finding the right people for their firm’s or company’s current strategic expansion or specific practice growth needs.

Two benefits of working with an established, personable, positive, and diligent legal recruiter are the personal time savings realized by entrusting various aspects of your search to an expert who understands and keeps your interests and goals in mind. Your recruiter may also provide exposure to exclusive unadvertised, or not yet advertised, opportunities.

Top tips for making the most of your relationship with a legal recruiter:

Choose the right recruiter

As every law firm is not the same, not every recruitment firm is the same. Before investing yourself, your time, and your efforts into the relationship, spend some time researching your options. Make sure that the recruiting firm and recruiter are willing and able to help someone with your career profile (i.e., practice background, career experience, career path, upward mobility, etc.) and professional goals.

Take some time to prepare yourself for your initial recruiter call or in-person meeting

The recruiter’s goal for the initial call or meeting is to learn more about you, your career progression and personal goals, and to work with you to determine the available opportunities that will best address the ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ that are missing or unavailable to you in your current place of employment.

Approach the initial call or meeting with your recruiter just as you would any job interview with an employer. Well, not exactly.

Whether you connect in-person or remotely, make sure that you are well-prepared. Be prepared to talk about your employment experience, work habits, career objectives, and workplace culture preferences. If you are speaking with your recruiter about a specific job opportunity that piqued your interest, do a little research on the law firm or company (or quickly review the information provided by your recruiter) before your call so that you can have a fruitful discussion about the opportunity.

Let the job search commence

Once you have done your initial call or meeting, the recruiter will be prepared to represent you with more than just your resume. They should have a clearer picture of you and your ‘ideal’ or ‘current’ next position in mind:

  • Professional and Technical skills or specialties
  • Soft skills (i.e., Interpersonal and communication skills, EQ, personality, etc.)
  • Short-term employment objectives and career progression goals
  • Long-term career goals

The process to find a recruiter may sound a little like applying for a job – and it is, sort of. However, once you have selected a recruiter to work with, the recruiter will start doing the heavy lifting. The recruiter can leverage her network of contacts, recruiter colleagues with appropriate roles, and organizations that fit your career goals to search for opportunities matching your preferences in a prospective position. Established recruiters often have rooted industry contacts and may have advanced knowledge of unadvertised job openings.

Continuously improve your marketability

Your recruiter should be able to make recommendations on maintaining or improving your marketability and may share critical tips related to the market or employers that most interest you. Take advantage of any professional development and training opportunities that your recruiter mentions, as well as keeping your professional online presence, such as LinkedIn, up to date and optimized for the career path and goals that you have identified.

Be responsive

If your recruiter contacts you, get back to her or him when your schedule allows. As a recruiter, I understand that ‘life happens,’ and there will be circumstances that arise where contacting your recruiter will be quite low on the priority list. I get it. No worries. Let your recruiter know you have received the message when you have a chance. A quick text, email, or call will put most recruiters at ease, letting them know that you are aware of the message. Do not let a recruiter become a source of increased stress or annoyance. We are here to help, and sometimes that requires the patience and ability to deal with what is in front of you right now. That won’t always be the job search. Some groups need to hire quickly, and in those instances, you certainly don’t want to miss out on an excellent opportunity.

Once you begin interviewing with prospective employers, your recruiter will prepare you by answering any questions you might have related to the opportunity, scheduled interviewers, law firm or company work environment expectations, and any prepared interview questions you might want to ask or be ready to answer. Initial interviews can range from 30-45 minute ‘Screening’ interviews with a Partner/Hiring Committee/Human Resources Chief, to a full round of meetings taking up several hours of the day. Lateral Partner and GC meetings often involve travel between offices and may require weeks of advanced planning. The goal with any first meeting, if an offer isn’t possible after an initial full round of meetings, is to get a second meeting. Going into your interviews prepared and confident will allow your personality, expertise, and the benefits that you will bring to the prospective employer to shine even brighter.

Stay engaged

If you aren’t receiving interviews with potential employers, reach out to your recruiter and ask what you can do to improve your chances. However, if you’ve been successful in landing interviews on your own, keep your recruiter in the loop. Keep in mind that, especially for non-recruiter positions, the recruiter may have contacts with the employer, and may be able to help you make further inroads with a given opportunity. Every effort or avenue taken could have a potential benefit.

It is central to the recruiting process that you maintain contact with your recruiter. While they will keep you apprised of potential roles that become available, it is acceptable to check in with them as your schedule and circumstances dictate. Open lines of communication are an essential part of the Attorney Candidate-Recruiter relationship.

Things your Legal Recruiter Needs to Know

Things your Legal Recruiter Needs to Know

New opportunities don’t always knock

As a legal recruiter, I help prepare you to take the next step in your legal career with one-on-one career goal determinations, appropriate position identification, and interview preparation to help you find the right opportunities.

There are a myriad of reasons (i.e., too many to list) that serve as the basis for taking the ‘next step’ in your legal career:

  • Lack of genuine career advancement and engaging, substantive assignment opportunities
  • A law firm or company culture has become unappealing, toxic, or stale.
  • A management style that doesn’t fit your current level of responsibility or career maturity
  • Firm size (i.e., too large or too small)

Whatever your reasons or motivations drive your urge to consider prospective opportunities might be, it is essential to convey to the potential employer your motives to make a change in a clear, concise, confident, and professional manner. Taking the time to think about and fine-tune your motivations for a move is a useful exercise with, or without, the assistance of a recruiter. Whether your underlying motivations for change are complicated or relatively straightforward (i.e., no longer ‘feeling the love’ from your employer), your reflection and introspection concerning your reasons for a change are invaluable in determining the practice group roles, career advancement opportunities, and often intangible law firm or in-house qualities that best allow you to pursue your long term career goals.

Job Description

Your daily activities and the opportunities presented have a significant impact on your personal and professional satisfaction and growth.

What do you want from your next career step?

What does your ideal job look like to you?

1. Key responsibilities

Identify those aspects of your current practice or environment that you enjoy regarding your current and past roles. With that in mind, write down those ‘must-have’ responsibilities in your ideal role. You should take the opportunity to express how you want to progress in your ideal role and how this identified role fits into your overall career goals.

2. Strengths and weaknesses

Clarity of expression is important when identifying your unique selling points to a prospective employer. Your reflection will allow you to determine the soft and hard skills necessary for success in your ideal position’s responsibilities, as well as any skillsets that your honest assessment suggests you may need to improve upon. A legal recruiter can discuss with you any perceived skill gaps and help you to bridge those gaps as your ideal opportunity and role take shape.

Law Firm or Company

Your ideal position and definition of a great place to work will differ from those expressed by others because each of us has individual interests and desires. It is critical at the early stages of your search to reflect on the look and feel of your ideal work environment. There are no right or wrong ‘ideals.’ Your ideal positions or roles may not be unique in a global professional sense, but they should reflect your well-thought-out interests, goals, and desires in a prospective employment environment.

1. Industry 

Throughout your legal career within what industries or subject matters have you most enjoyed working?

What industries or subject matters match your personal or professional passions?

You don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to those areas or subject matters in which you possess prior industry experience. There are many attorneys’ interests, and practice focuses change as their careers progress. Wholesale practice area changes can be challenging, at best, depending on your experience level and targeted employer, but ‘where there’s a will,’ there is usually a way to achieve that goal. Such a change will require you to identify the transferable skills from your past and recent experiences that will allow you to succeed in your new chosen industry.

2. Size and Scale

When it comes to your ideal work environment, there is no one size fits all solution. Do you want to practice within a large law firm with a goal of partnership and building a solid book of business, pursue an in-house opportunity incorporating business-driven (i.e., non-legal) activities into your in-house legal role as you work your way up the corporate? Perhaps you envisioned yourself working with startups and having direct contact with senior management and key stakeholders. There are pros and cons for working at law firms or companies of any size and scale. It is strictly a matter of finding the perfect fit for you.

3. Culture

What type of work environment is best suited to your personality?

Again, the key is to be true to yourself. A less than satisfying fit is often a primary reason that candidates don’t work out. Know those elements of a work environment that are most important for your short and long-term happiness at work. You should feel comfortable and confident in openly discussing with your recruiter any aspects of a prospective firm’s or company’s culture that are important for you in a new work environment.

“Must-haves” vs. “Nice-to-haves”

Once you have clearly defined the elements above, you need to determine what your “must-have” and “nice to have” ideals are for a new work environment. Be honest with yourself, and realistic, but do not compromise on those items that are most important to you. While it is necessary to accept that not every ‘terrific’ opportunity will check every “must-have” or “nice-to-have” box, there are certain factors that will be vital to your overall career goals, professional growth, and workplace enjoyment. Pursue your needs (it’s quite OK if they change along the way), and be sure to communicate with your recruiter about the aspects of a prospective role and work environment that are non-negotiable for you.

Be Practical

I think it is essential to have a clear vision of what you want to see in your next employment opportunity. Open and honest communication between you and your recruiter will ensure that you and your recruiter stay on the same ‘sheet of music.’ I believe that open communication, in whatever form (i.e., text, email, telephone, in-person meetings), will make your job search experience more engaging and less frustrating as you work together to identify and approach opportunities matching your specific interests, professional development, and long-term career goals. Items or issues to research and reflect upon may include:

  • Short-term and long-term career advancement opportunities
  • Bonus-eligibility or Stock Options
  • Benefits (i.e., Flexible Spending Accounts, Healthcare, Childcare, etc.)
  • Flexible or Remote workplace policies
  • Office location/commuting considerations
  • Compensation packages

Be open, honest, optimistic, and communicative with your recruiter as you develop and strengthen your working relationship. Your legal recruiter will keep her lines of communication open, so be sure to keep your lines of communication open as well. Keep your recruiter updated on any adjustments or revisions to your criteria for your perfect opportunity and of any new opportunities that you have become aware of, or pursued, on your own. Open communication and timely responses to electronic communications will ensure an engaging and professional recruiting process while permitting the recruiter to take full advantage of their law firm and in-house employer relationships.

If you are interested in discussing your legal career options, please contact Tom Jones at Thomas Jones Consulting to set up a call at your convenience.