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Richard Rice is the Senior Vice President of the legal division for firstPro, Inc., a full service Executive Search and staffing firm based in Atlanta, GA with an additional office in Philadelphia, PA. Mr. Rice is responsible for the overall operations and management as well as growth strategy for the firstPro, Inc. Legal division. While Mr. Rice occasionally works on high priority positions in other areas, his primary focus is the larger markets along the eastern seaboard, which includes Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, the Washington D.C. corridor, and the Research Triangle area. Mr. Rice has also successfully worked to help fill specific needs in Mexico City, Brazil, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Mr. Rice is well-known for his depth of knowledge and expertise of the legal recruiting industry. He has a strong background in consulting and legal search with his specific personal specialties being Intellectual Property, Complex Commercial Litigation, and Labor and Employment practice areas. His experience driving mergers for several prominent national law firms in major markets including Washington D.C., New York, and Atlanta, in addition to international offices of major U.S. firms in Munich, London, and Seoul, South Korea has solidified Mr. Rice's reputation as a leader in the industry.
Mr. Rice's legal recruiting career started as a legal recruiter with the Atlanta based Partners Group in 2003. Moving to firstPro Inc (the first time) in 2007, he served as VP of the Legal Division before leaving in 2010 to assume the role of Managing Partner for a major national Atlanta-based legal search firm. He recently returned to firstPro and once again functions as the Senior Vice-President, Legal Division.
When asked where he was born and raised, Mr. Rice said, "I was born and raised in East Ridge, Tennessee, an appropriately named suburb of Chattanooga which was 'east of Missionary Ridge.' At that time East Ridge had obtained notice for being one of the first 'suburban bedroom communities.'"
Mr. Rice earned his B.S. in Cost Accounting with a minor in Computer Science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He was awarded a baseball scholarship during his undergraduate tenure playing all four years for the Volunteers. He is an insatiable reader, and tries to keep up with everything on the New York Times Bestseller list. A life-long fear of heights has not grounded Mr. Rice. He has been a licensed private pilot for thirty-two years. He has also endeavored to keep active as a certified high school and college football official for the past 21 years.
Mr. Rice's Successful Career Path and Tips for Legal Recruiters
What does it take to become a successful legal recruiter? Mr. Rice noted:
"A top legal recruiter must be a knowledgeable expert in the latest trends in legal industry hiring, the art of building relationships, and an expert salesman. You have to know and understand what your client wants, and be able to deliver it.
In order to become successful, a legal recruiter needs to understand five things above all else:
1) Know the industry and develop a niche. The day of one attorney who specializes in several practice areas is long gone. There are over 2000 law firms in the US with over 900,000 attorneys practicing in over 100 different practice areas. Whether it be Intellectual Property, Corporate Law, Litigation, Real Estate Finance, or numerous others, become known as an expert in your specific field.
2) Remind yourself every day that we possess the ability to change a candidate's direction in life - for the better. Most candidates, be they a partner, or an associate or a paralegal, will always remember the recruiter who was responsible for placing them in the position they hold. A successful recruiter should only be concerned about getting the candidate the job they want, not the job the recruiter wants them to have.
3) Develop and maintain client relationships. Developing personal and professional relationships with your client law firms is the overriding key to success. So many recruiters have the 'anything for the deal' mentality and soon wonder why the phone isn't ringing with job orders.
4) Be your candidate's advocate. Be honest and realistic with them about their chances for landing that coveted position with a prestigious firm. Don't promise what you can't deliver.
5) Love your profession. I once worked with a recruiter who would tell me at least once a day, 'I love what we do.'"
What motivated him to work as a recruiter? Mr. Rice acknowledged:
"My background was in sales and Information Technology and I had no legal recruiting experience before moving into the industry in 2002. A good friend, who is the President of a well-known national recruiting firm, believed I had what it takes to become a successful recruiter and recruited me to work for his company. I believe I'm a fast learner, but it took almost two years of hard work to truly learn my way around the legal industry."
What advice would he give to someone who's brand-new to his position? "Learn your market and be patient. Legal recruiting is a specialty. I know of no one who went to college for the specific purpose of entering the legal recruiting field. It can take years to build significant relationships, but the monetary rewards can be significant and the personal satisfaction is priceless."
What's one of the things that Mr. Rice finds most challenging about his job? "Spending several months working on a specific need and having a candidate turn down an offer for what you feel is the perfect job for them. Occasionally we'll also have a candidate who will be rejected, with no reason given, for a position that seemed a perfect match. It's a challenging task to explain that decision to the candidate when we often don't even know ourselves why it happens."
What is the businessman known for professionally? "Honesty, integrity, and in-depth knowledge of the legal industry.
Does he have a recipe for a perfect match? "There is no recipe for a perfect match, but I once heard a recruiter describe it somewhat like dating: You'll know it when you see it."
What are Mr. Rice's strengths and weaknesses as a recruiter? "It's hard to talk about yourself, but I would have to say my primary strength is the ability to build and maintain relationships. I have many weaknesses, but the primary one is probably accepting a candidate's rejection by a client without a finite reason, and as mentioned before, having to explain that issue to the candidate."
Where does he see the legal field in the next five years? Mr. Rice stated:
"I believe changes are already underway and the legal world will continue to change the next five years. Clients have already begun to pay more attention to the value they receive from their lawyers. As such, many firms have been asked to consider a flat rate fee arrangement rather than the traditional 'bill by the hour structure.' Clients prefer this method because it gives them a handle on their expenses up front, but many firms are not comfortable with this sort of arrangement. Although I wasn't around then, I understand that prior to World War II, a flat fee arrangement was the norm and not the exception."
Where does Mr. Rice see the legal recruiting field in the next five years? "More emphasis will be given to firm mergers and moving entire practice groups from one firm to another, rather than the single one off partner."
Does he learn something of value from his mistakes? Mr. Rice admitted:
"Bill Gates said, 'Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.' When you make a mistake it's important to understand what you did wrong and learn from it. There are many mistakes I made early on because I simply didn't realize what I didn't know. Admitting your ignorance about a particular subject is the first step to becoming more knowledgeable about that subject."
Where does he derive his confidence? "Success builds confidence. The feeling of knowing you and your team were successful in finding the right attorney for the right position at the right firm, is priceless."
Becoming a Certified High School and College Football Official, a Rewarding Position and Favorite Quote
What motivated Mr. Rice to become a certified high school and college football official? He asserted:
"I was introduced to football officiating directly as a result of a bank robbery. I am not making this up. Some years ago, I was in the bank talking to the branch manager in his office when an irate customer threatened to 'rob the bank' because the teller was reluctant to cash his check. Being relatively inexperienced, the teller panicked and sounded the alarm which then notified the police. The police arrived and everyone had to stay in the bank until they could be interviewed and released. In the course of the conversation I learned that the manager was a high school football official, so we naturally talked football for the next two hours. He then invited me to a recruiting meeting for new officials and that's how it all started.
Being a football official teaches you to handle adversity and make the right choices under pressure. It's also a great lesson in human behavior. You'll never see a football referee going nose-to-nose with an irate head coach. We learn to listen and reply in a calm manner. We enforce the rules in a fair manner and learn to admit when we're wrong, and to make split second decisions under pressure without second guessing ourselves. It's a hobby and profession that can be both a confidence builder and a humbling experience and I'm still amazed at how often we get it right."
Doex he find his work rewarding? "As my recruiter friend said, 'I love what we do!' Like the birdie you just made on the hardest hole of the golf course, the feeling of seeing a deal you've been working on for months come together is what brings you back for more. I cannot imagine a more rewarding job than legal recruiting."
Mr. Rice's favorite quote is by Thomas Edison: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
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