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Sarah Epstein Bowman, Esq. is the Director & Senior Vice President of Continuum Legal, a consulting and legal search firm based in Washington D.C. She is responsible for developing and nurturing relationships with senior level attorneys and hiring administrators throughout the United States from highly respected small boutique firms and top-ranked large law firms in order to facilitate the best introductions and follow-through. Ms. Bowman engages in career counseling for attorneys to inform and assist from the preliminary market exploration stage to the active search phase. She also consults with law firms regarding growth strategies and market trends in order to attract top attorney talent in their fields.
Ms. Bowman specializes in the lateral placement of individual partners and groups for law firms for a variety of practice areas and locations. Her work has included lateral partner/counsel-level placements at the following firms: LexisNexis, Zuber & Taillieu, Roetzel & Andress, Lindquist & Vennum, Stanzione & Kim, Shulman Rogers, Herbert Smith, Ogletree, Abramoff Neuberger, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Ober Kaler, Tydings & Rosenberg, Ratner Prestia, Kilpatrick, DLA Piper, Duane Morris, Howrey, Crowell & Moring, Arnold & Porter, Milbank, Pillsbury, Miles & Stockbridge, Reed Smith, Freshfields, McDermott, and Locke Lord. Ms. Bowman is currently working with partners who practice maritime insurance, bankruptcy litigation, financial litigation, international trade, intellectual property, 337 litigation, government contracts, energy, health care, and real estate transactions. She has made national and international placements in Washington, D.C.; Virginia; Maryland; Chicago; Pittsburgh; Baltimore; Harrisburg; Denver; Dallas; Houston; Ohio; Salt Lake City; New York City; Colorado; Minnesota; North Carolina; California; Michigan; Texas; Hong Kong and many other locations.
One part of Ms. Bowman's expertise is to work one-on-one with individual attorneys and groups of attorneys to explore better job opportunities. She stated that in a tough market it is important to conduct job searches based not on advertised openings but, rather, on contacts. Ms. Bowman's method relies on her network in order to discover exceptional opportunities that are usually customized exclusively for her candidates. During the search process, she develops a close relationship with each candidate so that she can uncover several nuances of their priorities. Ms. Bowman is then able to establish a search plan, which encompasses firms with maximum synergies. As part of the process, she helps with business plans, resumes, and interview preparation. Ms. Bowman uses a distinct search technique that maintains absolute confidentiality.
Another part of her expertise is to work directly with firms to develop the practice in new or existing locations and new or existing practice areas. Ms. Bowman takes the time to learn about each firm's culture so she can facilitate the most successful matches. All of her placements are guaranteed. Ms. Bowman has become a go-to career advisor and search consultant, especially for partner-level law firm placement. Her advice has been featured in the Daily Record and the Legal Times as well as on career specialist panels at area law schools.
Prior to joining Continuum Legal in 2004, Ms. Bowman served as a Senior Attorney Search Consultant for Klein Landau & Romm, Director of Legal Recruiting for Management Recruiters International, Director of Human Resources for Sageworks, Inc., and as a Legal Recruiting Manager for Fannie Mae.
She was born and raised in Rochester, NY. Ms. Bowman attended Allendale Columbia School (a prep school in Rochester), where she graduated number one in her class and was a nationally ranked tennis player. She was recruited to play tennis at Princeton University, where she played four years of Division 1 varsity tennis and earned the Lewis S. Kraft Award. Ms. Bowman graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Princeton University in 1992 and earned her J.D. from American University in 1996. She is a Maryland barred attorney who began her recruiting career in 1997.
Ms. Bowman is married to her husband whom she started dating twenty years ago when she was a law student. The couple has two daughters - Carly, thirteen, and Amelia, seven. When asked about her hobbies and interests, Ms. Bowman replied, "These days my time outside of work is spent focusing on my daughters' sports. My older daughter is a competitive figure skater, and my younger daughter is on a travel ice hockey team."
Ms. Bowman's Successful Career Path and Tips for Legal Recruiters
What does it take to become a successful legal recruiter? Ms. Bowman noted:
"(1) The ability to ask people questions that help guide them toward developing their own career goals. Oftentimes people know they aren't quite in the best spot for themselves, but they aren't sure exactly how to identify their priorities.
(2) The ability to hear what people don't say. This actually goes hand in hand with #1 because sometimes people like to just start talking without actually being straightforward with their priorities, so a good recruiter has to listen carefully to what might not be directly expressed. An experienced recruiter has spoken to many, many people over the years and can begin to see patterns develop.
(3) The ability to take the ups and downs. This is a business where so many factors are out of our hands. Circumstances which directly impact the result can arise without fair warning even after 6 months to a year of hard work on a particular deal. That can feel discouraging! These are factors I cannot control. However, the ups are very rewarding, and it feels good when the candidate is happy in his or her new position and the firm is grateful.
(4) The ability to manage many moving parts. Everyone in the process is incredibly busy, and there are many aspects to the process which cannot be overlooked or else the whole deal could fall through. The candidates and the members of the firm all look to the recruiter to keep the process moving without anything falling through the cracks. A good recruiter has to strike a balance between nudging people to do their part without appearing too pushy."
What motivated her to work as a recruiter? Ms. Bowman explained:
"I became interested in family law during law school because the courses were very similar to undergraduate policy-type classes where the class discusses, quite philosophically and idealistically, how to make the world a better place, so to speak, within a family law context. So, very briefly, I entered the world of family law after graduation and found the practice of family law to be unpalatable to me. It was too depressing for me, and I found myself too emotionally attached to the cases. I also was uncomfortable with the feeling that I hadn't really solved the clients' problems even if I had completed the tasks at hand. So, I left the practice of law altogether and began my headhunting career, which I still enjoy 17 years later. I am able to use my legal background and gain a sense of satisfaction that I am helping people reach their goals."
What would she say is the most important thing she learned as a legal recruiter? "People can be unpredictable. You need to be willing to let them make up their own minds and also change their minds. People need to make their own decisions. A recruiter can impart the greatest advice in the world, but if the candidate is not motivated to listen to the advice, the recruiter can't force it to happen."
What is Ms. Bowman known for professionally? "Partner placement for law firms and overall legal career guidance."
What does she look for to find the right fit? Ms. Bowman acknowledged:
"From the firm: cities where the firm has locations, cities where the firm is looking to expand, practice areas, desired practice areas, firm rankings, firm reputation for particular fields, bill rates, profits and revenue per partner, partnership process/system, management style, compensation model, firm culture, support & resources, growth plans, both short and long term. From the candidate: work style (collaboration, autonomy, etc.), locations desired/required by clients, bill rates, originations, collections, break-down of the current practice both in terms of current focus and desired focus, support needed, compensation both current and desired, practice areas needed and wanted by clients for additional spin-off business, short term and long term needs and wants."
In regards to what makes a great candidate, she claimed:
"A great candidate is employed and relatively happy but knows he or she is not at the best place for the long term. He/she has a profitable, self-sustaining book of business and a reputation in the field. He or she is able to set aside time to talk to me by phone and email throughout the process. In other words, he or she is responsive! I often talk to candidates at odd hours in order to accommodate everyone's schedules."
Does Ms. Bowman have a recipe for a perfect match? "There is no recipe for a perfect match. I actually try to create the perfect match for each circumstance. Usually, I work one-on-one with a candidate and create the opportunity for him or her based on the candidate's priorities and the firm's platform."
She discussed her strengths and one weakness as a recruiter. Ms. Bowman candidly admitted:
"I am easy to talk to and am often told I helped to brighten someone's day after our conversation. I am organized. I make sure nothing in the process falls through the cracks. I am creative with strategy and knowledgeable about the market. One of my current candidates told me that he couldn't believe I had come up with a certain firm where he is interviewing now because he thought he knew all the players in his field and hadn't thought about that one, but he feels it's perfect and hopes to get an offer. I use discretion. I understand how small this world is and how critical confidentiality is. I assist individuals with career advice: for those entering law school through senior partners; I love talking to people in the profession, and that's what I do all day every day, so I am able to put together the experiences I have heard about and witnessed and impart advice based on that. I assist individuals with interview preparation, resume review, business plans: when these aspects of the process overwhelm the candidate, I am able to make it seem manageable. I am also persistent. I drive myself and others I work with to reach the point we had in mind when we started. My weakness is also that I am persistent: sometimes when maybe I should let a process go, I persist just because I had already worked so hard and just want to finish what I started."
Where does Ms. Bowman see the legal recruiting field in the next five years? She asserted:
"I haven't seen much change in the past 17 years, and I believe candidates will continue to seek out recruiters so that they can focus on practicing law and have someone else do all the legwork during the process. Also, a big part of what I do is to test the waters to see if a firm might have an interest in a certain candidate without revealing who my candidate is, and that is something only a recruiter can do. If a candidate reaches out to the firms, then there is no longer any anonymity, and the whole town might end up hearing about the candidate's search."
What motivates her to be a legal recruiter every day? "This is how I earn my living to support my family, and this is also how I feel good about giving back to people with the help I give in the form of either legal career advice or actual placement at the job of their choice."
Does Ms. Bowman learn something of value from her mistakes? "The biggest mistakes I have made recently boil down to wasting my time with people who weren't really focused on doing a search but went through the early stages of the process anyway. I should have detected something during our conversations in order to figure that out and save my time and the firm's time."
Where does she derive her confidence? "At this point in my career, I derive my confidence from the referrals I receive. Lawyers who are literally famous in their respective fields call me out of the blue sometimes and ask to work with me based on a recommendation from their colleague. That is a real honor and never stops making me feel fortunate and humbled and, of course, confident."
Ms. Bowman's Inspiration, Mentoring Others, Professional Associations, Favorite Quote and a Rewarding Position
Who has motivated Ms. Bowman? "Early on in my career, I worked for a search firm that was completely ethical and professional. They modeled for me what the business is about. This is not sales. This is a consultative career placement profession."
Is she a mentor? "Absolutely. I provide career advice to young attorneys and often hear back from them a few years later with positive results of the steps they took as a result of our conversations."
Ms. Bowman is a member of the Maryland Bar and she serves on the Princeton University Alumni Schools Committee. "I am very active in the Princeton alumni community and provide a great deal of support to Princeton alums in the legal profession." She wrote this article in a posting on the "Tigernet" listserv.
Her favorite quote is by Thomas Jefferson: "I am a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."
Does Ms. Bowman find her work rewarding? "Absolutely. My greatest compliment is when I receive referrals from people I have placed because I know there are many other recruiters out there, so it feels good when they call me. It is rewarding to create a relationship that wasn't there before I thought to make the connection among attorneys who are highly regarded in their fields but never came across each other."
What to Expect When Working with Ms. Bowman
Wesley Ferrebee, an attorney at Jefferson IP Law stated, "Sarah worked extremely hard to get me my new job, which I love. I'm thankful to have come in contact with her and would recommend her to everyone."
John Daly, Esq., a legal recruiter for CPA Global acknowledged, "Sarah is a tenacious and conscientious legal recruiter! She knows the legal landscape from coast to coast -- and beyond. She will work tirelessly to find the right job for her candidates -- and she will do what it takes to find the right person for her corporate or law firm clients -- however small or large they might be!"
David Forrer, Of Counsel at the Law Offices of Jane Frankel Sims claimed, "Sarah works hard, gets results, has a disarming charm and is thorough in every respect. I don't think anyone has provided greater professional assistance to me, and I would use her again in a heartbeat."
Paul Murphy who is at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP, said:
"I worked with Sarah during the course of 2009 during my job search, and Sarah was the driving force behind my decision to go back to law firm life. She was not only thorough and attentive throughout the process...she really took the time to understand my motivations and goals, so that we could find the best opportunity for me. I couldn't have asked for a better advisor during my job search. I can't recommend Sarah strongly enough."
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