Prior to becoming a recruiter, Ken spent thirty years specializing in labor and employment law on the defense side. The South Carolina Supreme Court certified him as a Specialist in Employment and Labor Law and Corporate Counsel Magazine named him as one of the best employment and labor lawyers in the United States.
Ken began his legal career with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, a national labor and employment firm. He then served for twenty years as head of the labor and employment group at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, a southeastern firm with twelve offices from the District of Columbia to Florida, before founding his firm with Barbara Mayden in January 2008.
Ken led or co-counseled more than twenty-five published opinions at all levels, which include the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, the United States Supreme Court, state and federal district courts and the National Labor Relations Board. He is a fellow of the national College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He was consistently recognized in Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business and in The Best Lawyers in America.
Ken has served on the American Bar Association's (ABA) Board of Governors and its Finance Committee. He has been in the ABA's House of Delegates since 1988 and is on the Council of the ABA's Law Practice Management Section.
Ken was born and raised in Spartanburg, SC. He graduated with a B.A. in English and a minor in Religion from the University of South Carolina. Ken also earned his J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law.
When the recruiter isn't working, he enjoys hiking, golfing, and spinning. He says he is a "retired marathon runner." Ken is an avid South Carolina Gamecocks and San Francisco 49ers fan. When asked to name his favorite restaurant, he quickly said L'Esprit Jean-Claude Dufour, a French restaurant in Saint Bart's.
Ken's Successful Career Path and Tips for Legal Recruiters
Does Ken have a top memory from school? He said his best memory from law school was the advice his appellate professor gave that attorneys need to have empathy for their audience when addressing any court or group. Ken acknowledged that the professor's advice helped him explain complicated employment and labor law rules and regulations to the front line supervisors of his corporate clients during his thirty-year career, and has helped him every time he has addressed a group or made a speech.
What does it take to become a successful legal recruiter? Ken reiterated what a successful realtor told his daughter when she was thinking of going into the business. "You have to attack this as a full-time job. If you dabble in it, you will not accomplish much." Ken noted that the same advice applies to legal recruiting.
What motivated Ken to work as a legal recruiter? "I had defended enough employment lawsuits and had always wanted to have my own business. I waited until my children were out of college and graduate school before I approached Barbara Mayden with the idea of hanging up those dreaded time sheets and starting a legal search firm."
The recruiter was asked what he considered his strong points: "I hope I am known for coming up with creative solutions and solving problems, even those that appear to be insurmountable. I have had several large placements and law firm mergers where people thought the deal was dead, but we creatively figured out how to make it work."
As for his weakness, he claimed, "I have a general reluctance to make cold calls. Most of the attorneys we contact are someone we know from our combined 60 years practicing law or from our ABA contacts around the country." As a group leader in his firm, Ken used to receive cold calls from recruiters and he felt many of those were "trolling for unhappy people" as opposed to real searches.
So what is Ken's advice to new recruiters? "Do your homework, don't just go down a bar directory to find a lawyer." Ken continued to say that legal recruiters should spend time researching each candidate so they are not wasting anybody's time. The candid recruiter also emphasized that clear communication is essential in the recruiting industry. Ken never wants to hear a client or a prospect say, "But I thought…" He believes if there is clear communication between the recruiter and client/candidate then there should not be unhappy surprises.
Considering his five plus years of experience in the legal recruiting industry, Ken was asked where he sees the legal field in the next five years. "The legal field will be more competitive and sophisticated. Not only will there be more recruiters in the field, but lawyers and corporations in many instances are trying to do their own recruiting. But given the extreme, hard costs of turnover and bad hires, there will always be a need for top notch legal recruiters who really know where to find the very best lawyers."
What does Ken look for to find the right fit? What makes a great candidate? "I look at each candidate's personality and at the culture of the firm to see if there is a match. There is no point in talking finances if the individuals don't share the same ethics, values and goals." Ken added, "We don't work with lawyers who have pointy elbows and who are not team players. We also take pride in our success rate. We do not want to make a deal come together if it is doomed to fail, because that reflects directly on us."
How does Ken process fear? "Fear and anxiety can be destructive and don't lead to anything good. That's where exercise and meditation come in handy" (See Ken's Mentor below).
How does the recruiter tackle obstacles? "I meet them head on and I worry about what I can do about them and not what I can't do."
Ken's Mentor and Mentoring Others, Facing Obstacles and His Passions
Does Ken have a mentor? "I don't know if she is technically a mentor, but a terrific yoga instructor in Charlotte, Debbie George, has given me some of the best advice I have ever received when it comes to living a longer and more productive life. I had a bad back from years of traveling, jogging and golfing, and was referred to Debbie, who has taught me the importance of daily stretching, meditation, positive thinking and protecting my energy."
Has Ken faced any obstacles in his life? "Leaving an equity partnership in a large firm in late 2007 to start a legal search firm and then watching the economy tank over the next two years was the worst financial obstacle I have ever faced. I thought whatever the opposite of 'The Midas Touch' was, I had it! Who needed a search firm when all law firms were doing was firing lawyers?"
What to Expect When Working with Ken
From testimonials on the Young Mayden website:
A law firm: "We were impressed with and benefited from Young Mayden's speed, efficiency and cost effectiveness… Young and Mayden [used their] extensive contacts both inside and outside the legal profession to identify and enlist an impressive number of excellent candidates for our consideration."
A candidate: "I am extremely happy. I hope you put me in the column of 'most satisfied placements.' I can't thank you enough for helping me. I absolutely love it here."
Another candidate wrote, "Dear Barbara and Ken, just wanted y'all to know, this week has been GREAT. I should have done this years ago."