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Three Reasons To Be Nice to Headhunters

The Careerist

August 28, 2013

Man on Phone © Francesco83 - Fotolia.com(1)Today's guest blogger is Christopher Manning, a partner recruiter at Garrison & Sisson.

File-strewn office. Summary judgment motion needs work. Pre-bills to review. Depo prep ready? Not even close.

You are having a heck of a day.

Then your phone rings.

Oh no, not another legal recruiter on the line!

But before you ignore that call, stop and think about what you might glean from the conversation—even if you have no interest in making a move. In the same amount of time you might spend browsing a news web site to take a mental break, consider investing a few minutes listening to the recruiter. At the risk of sounding self-serving, I believe most experienced, successful lawyers will agree that having a solid recruiter relationship can help your career.

Here are some reasons to listen to what the person has to say:

1. You will get valuable intelligence about what other firms are looking for.

Chances are, a legal recruiter is calling you about a specific law firm search. After your brief expression of interest, a good recruiter will be forthcoming about the exact nature of the position available and the identity of the law firm looking.

In most cases, however, a mere scintilla of interest opens the door to interesting information about another law firm’s business needs, hiring trends, level of portable business required, billing rate data, staffing available, and more—all for the “price” of maybe four to five minutes.

2. You will get a general sense of the market.

Beyond gaining market intelligence, humoring a legal recruiter gets you insight into which particular areas and skill sets are in the most demand. An informed recruiter will be willing/able to answer questions about the demand for certain sub-practices (i.e., practices within larger practice areas), billing rate norms, staffing trends, and the like.

3. It will help you establish an ongoing relationship with a recruiter.

Everyone needs a good doctor, a good lawyer, a good tailor, and a favorite restaurant. It might take a few tries to find the right fit but going through the introduction process is a necessary evil that can yield a potential career-long relationship. Your relationship with an honest, ethical, tapped-in legal recruiter could make a difference in your next move, the size of your practice, and your compensation. So take the time to “interview” until you find the right one.

Upcoming post: How to Vet a Recruiter.

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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.


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Great points, it's good to know what your dealing with when it comes to headhunters.

Re:comments by "partner at a major firm," I have been a professional legal recruiter for 15 years, so I believe I am qualified to opine here. Whether I cold call or not (and I do a lot), my position is that the firm pays my fee, but I am working for both parties. It is in my self-interest to do so. If I do a good job for candidate X, the 3/11 rule in sales governs. If I do a good job, the person will refer me to 3 people, if a job is done poorly...you get the rest. So, even if I could care less about the candidate's future from a personal standpoint, I want to do my best so that my income potential increases due to qualified referrals. That being said, there are some great recruiters out there who care about maximizing earning potential while at the same time, care about the impact their efforts will have on the candidate's career. Those are the people you want to work with.

I am a recruiter (not in the legal field but I have done some legal recruiting.). And yes I do make cold calls when I have to. That is how I connect to someone I don't know. And yes I want to make my commission. That is how I make my living. You on the other hand have a salary. You should ask good questions and ensure that the recruiter can help you (if you are interested in help). As you suggest do your own due diligence on the recruiter: how long have you been doing this? How many people with my skills did you place in the last 24 months? Of those how many are still at that company? Just as with a lawyer he/she might be a snake looking to make a quick hit. I tell people all the time that headhunter, lawyer and used car salesman are used in a sentence together and it is never good. All I have is my word.

I do not agree. Although I am not putting all head hunters into the same bucket, those who recruit by cold call solicitations are primarilly interested in one thing: their comission from a sale. They are not working for the recruit, they are working for themselves first and the firm for which they are recruiting second. With that backdrop, what they say to the recruit needs to be considered carefully and not taken at face. The best advice: do your own due diligence on firms, job opportunities and the market generally, and above all, any head hunter you are considering doing busienss with. This is your career, and no one cares more about that than you do. Good luck!

Good points, all. Subpoint 3 (b) might be join that recruiter on LinkedIn and get plugged into their network. If their connection list includes lawyers you respect in your practice area or shows a breadth of contacts you find impressive, encourage that relationship and engage that recruiter to get any questions answered. So check them out on LinkedIn...you can bet your next bonus that they're using it to check you out.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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