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Phyllis Hawkins is the founder of Phyllis Hawkins & Associates, Inc., a leading legal recruiting firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. She has been recognized by The American Lawyer as the "doyenne of Phoenix recruiters." Ms. Hawkins was Arizona's first legal recruiter and she has been in the business of legal search, recruitment, and placement consistently since 1985.
Ms. Hawkins recruits exclusively in Arizona and she has been responsible for the staffing of most out of state firms based in Phoenix. Ms. Hawkins has placed hundreds of experienced partners and associates with Arizona corporations and law firms. She also does most of the partner moves in Phoenix. Ms. Hawkins is known as a trusted person who can create a good fit for someone looking to move confidentially. She recently moved an associate who was working in London to Tucson.
Prior to establishing Phyllis Hawkins & Associates in 1985, Ms. Hawkins worked for a reputable personnel agency, where she founded the legal recruitment field. She also served as a teacher for ten years. Her involvement with community service has given her an extraordinary knowledge of the community. Ms. Hawkins is a member of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC) and she served as president of NALSC from 1994 - 1996. She has been a member of NALSC since 1987. Phyllis Hawkins & Associates is affiliated with Newman Hawkins in Michigan.
Ms. Hawkins grew up, along with her husband and high school classmate, in Winslow, Arizona. They both attended Arizona State University and the couple has made Phoenix their home since graduating from college. Ms. Hawkins' husband is a federal judge. She earned her Bachelor's and Master's degree in Education from ASU. Ms. Hawkins also has taken 28 hours of post-graduate work in educational and counseling psychology.
Ms. Hawkins's Successful Career Path and Tips for Legal Recruiters
What does it take to become a successful legal recruiter? "Honestly, the best recruiters I've known over the years are people who could have succeeded in sales in other fields. We are after all, selling."
How did Ms. Hawkins transition into working as a recruiter? She explained:
"I was a teacher for 10 years and also was politically active for a period of time. I was a delegate to the 1976 Democratic Convention, teacher activist, and unsuccessful candidate for the Arizona legislature in 1982. I had a taste of other things and decided when my youngest son was ready for kindergarten that I wanted a career change. Something that involved working with adults. I applied for several opportunities and always made it into the final cut. I was a great interview, but when people woke up to the fact that I really didn't have the experience necessary for the job, I was not hired. It was my husband who suggested that I talk to a 'head hunter' about the best way for me to transition. Her name was Marcia Ember. I had never even heard of a head hunter. Marcia felt I would make a great recruiter. Marcia placed people in the technical field whatever that was--and suggested I talk to a woman she knew who ran an employment agency. I was hired. The agency placed office personnel, mostly legal and business secretaries, accountants, bookkeepers and construction executives. I was an immediate success and began to develop my own clients.
At the same time, I heard that placing lawyers was big business in New York and L.A. (I was married to a lawyer and knew many lawyers in Phoenix and thought I might be able to develop this area). My employer was willing to let me try. I worked at it for a year with no success. She was not willing to go further in this area. 'No one would ever pay a fee to hire a lawyer.' I was so convinced that this could be done that I quit.
I had by this time enough of my own clients to sustain me while I began. It was daunting. In those days, lawyers graduated from law school, were hired by a firm, made partner and stayed until retirement. No moves. The internet didn't exist yet. The only market would be to search for new hires, and to convince firms to use me to find these special people.
I went to the public library and checked out every book on executive search I could find. I began to realize that because no one did what I wanted to do, I could create this as I chose. Contingency based recruiting was looked down upon by retained firms because they offered clients a more comprehensive service. What if more was offered than just sending a resume, but on a contingency basis? This would be my model. I placed my first lawyer not long after."
What motivated her to work as a recruiter? "I find meeting with other legal recruiters invigorating. I love what I do. NALSC has been a God send for me both for continued education and keeping up with new market trends."
What advice would Ms. Hawkins give to someone who's brand new to her position? "Join a successful recruiting firm that will give you good training. Also, always act in an ethical manner. This business is based on reputation."
What information does she wish she had when starting out? "The internet."
What's one of the things that Ms. Hawkins finds most challenging about her job? "Spending months and months putting a deal together and having it not close."
What would she say is the most important thing she learned as a legal recruiter? "I am much happier to be a legal recruiter than a lawyer."
What is Ms. Hawkins known for professionally? "Making the best fit."
What does she look for to find the right fit? What makes a great candidate? "Where someone would best be not just for today but for their overall career."
In regards to what makes a great candidate, Ms. Hawkins noted, "Someone who is a 'bulls eye' for a position not just a good possibility."
What are her strengths and one weakness as a recruiter? "I can see opportunities for matches that will strengthen both in the long run. My weakness is that I can't help everybody."
Where does Ms. Hawkins see the legal field in the next five years? "Due to the lack of training of young attorneys during the recession, there will become a shortage of experienced attorneys in some critical areas of the law."
Has Ms. Hawkins learned something of value from her mistakes? "As someone who was self taught, my schooling has depended upon learning from mistakes."
What motivates her to be a legal recruiter every day? "After 30 years, this is who I am."
Where does Ms. Hawkins derive her confidence? "It has never occurred to me that I couldn't succeed if I worked at something hard enough. I am also really lucky to have a spouse who has always believed in and encouraged me."
Mentoring Legal Recruiters, An Inspirational Husband, Being a Grandmother and Ms. Hawkins' Goals
Does Ms. Hawkins consider herself a mentor? "Yes. Probably the most notable is Nancy Newman who came to me for training back in the mid eighties. She has enjoyed a successful career in Michigan for many years."
Who inspires her? "My husband is still my inspiration. As a Senior U.S. Circuit Judge he has risen to the pinnacle of his profession and is known for his ethics and moderate views."
What causes is Ms. Hawkins passionate about? "I'm now a grandmother. Easily my most passionate cause."
Does she have goals? "Stay healthy and continue working."
"Phyllis Hawkins is the 'go-to' person for legal recruitment in Phoenix, whether you are a lawyer looking to make the right career move, or a law firm or company seeking to hire top quality legal talent. Phyllis has broad and deep contacts in the legal community, a long history of success, and great insight and integrity."
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