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Paul Heldenbrand, Esq. is the owner and managing member of Riverbend Group, LLC, an executive search firm in Howard County, Maryland. He specializes in recruiting and placing individual lawyers and practice groups in virtually all practice areas, and in law firm merger consulting. His greatest numbers of placements during his twenty-three years as a legal search consultant have been in the areas of taxation and tax controversy (especially federal and international tax); employee benefits and executive compensation; international trade, transactions, project development and finance, and arbitration; complex commercial litigation; corporate law; and construction law and litigation. As a recruiter focused largely on the Washington, D.C. market, Mr. Heldenbrand has also placed lawyers in numerous federal practice areas, including environmental, energy, government contracts, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, securities, communications and new technologies, transportation, lobbying, political/election law and financial institutions regulation.
Although Mr. Heldenbrand has particular expertise in the Washington, D.C. and surrounding Mid-Atlantic region, he also has conducted executive searches and placed attorneys in other regions and countries as well. International law is one of his major specialties. He frequently works with foreign-born attorneys seeking positions with top law firms and other employers in the United States.
Mr. Heldenbrand is a current member of the Maryland Bar and the American Bar Association, and a former member of the District of Columbia Bar. He is also a contributing member of Phi Beta Kappa. His company, Riverbend Group, LLC, is an active member of the Greater Mt. Airy [Maryland] Chamber of Commerce.
Since 2011, Mr. Heldenbrand has been selected for inclusion in the editions of Marquis "Who's Who in America" and "Who's Who in American Law." In 2007, Goldline Research, a leading national consumer and professional services research company, listed Riverbend Group as one of "The Ten Most Dependable™" recruiting firms in the Mid-Atlantic region in a list published in U.S. Airways magazine. The firm was also named a "Leading Provider™" of regional and national executive search services several times by Goldline's successor company in lists published in Forbes magazine. The Better Business Bureau currently rates Riverbend Group "A+." The firm is also rated by Dun & Bradstreet.
Mr. Heldenbrand was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He lived there until his family moved to Maryland when he was fourteen years old. Mr. Heldenbrand has resided in Maryland continuously since then, although he lived in Philadelphia for three years while attending law school at the University of Pennsylvania. He enjoys Maryland's great diversity, including not only its diverse population but also the close proximity of his home to mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, various sporting and entertainment activities, and a host of beautiful rivers, lakes, parks, hiking and biking trails, and museums.
Mr. Heldenbrand is an avid tennis player. During the summer following his graduation from Robert E. Peary High School in Rockville, Maryland, where he was captain of the varsity tennis team, he entered and won the Men's Singles tennis championship for the City of Rockville at the age of seventeen. A few years later, he teamed up with his partner and won the Mixed Doubles championship for Montgomery County, a large county in Maryland with a very active tennis community.
Mr. Heldenbrand earned an A.A. degree in Criminal Corrections from Montgomery College in Rockville, where he graduated with honors and was again captain of the varsity tennis team. He went on to receive a B.A. in Criminology magna cum laude from the University of Maryland, College Park, and earned his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
When asked about his family, Mr. Heldenbrand replied:
"I have been blessed with a fantastic family. In addition to great parents and siblings, I have a wonderful wife and children. My wife 'Lupe' and I have been married for thirty years as of this month. She is from Bolivia, and our entire family is bilingual (English/Spanish). This includes our 23 year-old son David and our 25 year-old daughter Julieta, both of whom are college graduates employed in the healthcare industry. Being reasonably fluent in Spanish has helped me in my recruiting business; it has allowed me the opportunity to represent many top Latin American attorneys, including private practitioners, ambassadors, judges, politicians, and other senior level government, corporate and multilateral lending institution officials. One of my former candidates was even Prime Minister of a Latin country."
In addition to working with numerous Latin American attorney candidates, Mr. Heldenbrand has confidentially represented lawyers, ambassadors and politicians from many other regions of the world, including placing the son of a former President of a major Asian country who is licensed to practice law in the United States.
Mr. Heldenbrand is currently reading Duane Schultz's The Dahlgren Affair: Terror and Conspiracy in the Civil War. His interest in this book stems from the fact that his family's current home in Howard County, Maryland was built by a member of the Dahlgren family.
In addition to his successful legal recruiting firm, Mr. Heldenbrand owns SpecialtyDomains.com, which is a site dedicated to providing professional services organizations with business-specific domain names.
Mr. Heldenbrand's Successful Career Path and Tips for Legal Recruiters
Does Mr. Heldenbrand have a top memory from law school? He explained:
"One of my main memories from University of Pennsylvania Law School is regarding an event which taught me an important lesson for living - literally. Despite my best efforts (including many all-night study sessions), I did not make Law Review based on my first semester grades. Accordingly, I entered the writing competition for the remaining couple of spots on the journal. With all of the nightly reading assignments and other class work necessarily taking precedence, I did not complete my lengthy brief (how's that for an oxymoron?) until the day it was due. In order to meet the deadline, I ended up staying awake a full three days and nights before turning my paper in an hour before it was due. At that point, being awake purely as a result of adrenaline and huge amounts of coffee, I decided to grab a bite to eat before crashing in my dorm room. As I crossed the street to buy a celebratory sandwich, I was so 'out of it' that I stepped in front of a speeding taxi and very nearly got nailed. In thinking about this story and recounting it years later, I have often pondered what good it would have done me to have made Law Review (which I didn't, unfortunately) if I were not around to benefit from that résumé-enhancing achievement!."
Did he receive any awards, scholarships, or honors at school? Mr. Heldenbrand noted:
"Although I had no honors in law school, I scored in the top 3-4% on my LSAT exam and was awarded a partial scholarship at Penn. At the undergraduate level, I earned numerous academic awards, including graduating magna cum laude (3.9/4.0 GPA) from the University of Maryland and membership in Phi Beta Kappa, Mortar Board National Honor Society, The John Marshall Pre-Law Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi, Dean's List, Phi Theta Kappa and others. In addition, I was not only a full-time student during every semester of college, but also worked full-time throughout high school and college as manager of the Tennis Department at a large country club. On top of that, I served as team captain and #1 singles and doubles player on both my high school and junior college varsity tennis teams."
What does it take to become a successful legal recruiter? He asserted:
"I believe that to be successful as a recruiter, a person must have excellent people skills; the ability to think creatively; enough intelligence to engender the confidence of others; in-depth knowledge of the subject matter (which can be learned); the self-confidence to control the process and the myriad situations which can and do arise; and a risk-taking, entrepreneurial sort of personality. He/she must also derive a high degree of satisfaction from creating 'win-win' outcomes, including by making great long-term matches. In addition, I have often told new and would-be recruiters that our business requires a seemingly incongruous mixture of patience and impatience - enough impatience to create and instill a constant sense of urgency, yet the patience to deal with situations once we've done all we can and events are out of our control."
Did Mr. Heldenbrand transition into working as a recruiter? He stated:
"Yes. Following my graduation from law school in 1983, I worked as an associate attorney at Pepper & Corazzini, a Washington, D.C. telecommunications law firm. I voluntarily left the practice of law in late 1985 to become an executive recruiter with The McCormick Group, Inc., a national search and consulting firm where I specialized first in the property management area for five years before joining the Law & Government Affairs group in 1991. I left The McCormick Group in early 2005 to relocate to Howard County, Maryland and form Riverbend Group, LLC, an award-winning legal search and consulting firm. (My company is named after a riverfront property my wife and I own in West Virginia, which we call 'Riverbend Ranch' since it's located on a bend in a river.)"
What motivated him to work as a recruiter? Mr. Heldenbrand responded:
"I have an entrepreneurial spirit, am a 'people person,' and greatly enjoy creating 'win-win' situations. Recruiting seemed to be an ideal career for someone with those personality traits, so I decided to give it a try after interviewing with my first manager and trainer at The McCormick Group, Retired Army Colonel Ed Bunn, back in 1985. Col. Bunn, a former national trainer for Management Recruiters International (MRI) who is now deceased, turned out to be one of finest human beings and best managers I have ever had the pleasure to know. Everyone else at the company, including its owners and managers, were also wonderful - so much so that I ended up staying at the company for just under twenty years."
Tell me about SpecialtyDomains.com, your professional web domain sales business. How did you get into this business, and how does it relate to your primary business as a legal recruiter? Mr. Heldenbrand responded:
"Specialty Domains began organically, as opposed to being formed by thoughtful design and careful planning. Basically, I began purchasing legal recruiting-related domain names to use as redirecting domains or 'pointers' to the Riverbend Group website, and the business grew from there. I now own many hundreds of recruiting and other professional domain names which are available for acquisition by recruiters, law firms and others. For example, a law firm in Beverly Hills purchased a generic domain name from SpecialtyDomains.com, around which it formed an extensive branding and marketing campaign. Another domain client, a fellow legal recruiter specializing in attorney recruitment and placement like me, purchased a domain to use as a blog site focusing on issues faced by senior attorneys moving laterally to new firms."
What advice would Mr. Heldenbrand give to someone who's brand-new to his position? He asserted:
"I would recommend that a new legal search consultant take the time and effort to learn as much as he or she can about each practice area in which the recruiter anticipates conducting searches. This is particularly true with respect to those practice areas and issues that are 'hot' or expected to become so in the foreseeable future. However, it is not absolutely necessary for a person with the right people skills and personality to be an attorney or have other legal training in order to be a world class legal recruiter."
What information does he wish he had when starting out? Mr. Heldenbrand admitted:
"I wish I had been better prepared to weather the ups and downs of our business. Had I realized the extent to which economic downturns (particularly the 'Great Recession' of the past several years) can affect one's income as a recruiter, I would have made wiser financial decisions. I would advise anyone in the recruiting business to save as much as possible for the 'rainy days' which are sure to come at some point - often with little or no warning."
What's one of the things that Mr. Heldenbrand finds most challenging about his job? He said:
"One of the most challenging aspects of legal recruiting (or any type of recruiting) is maintaining candidate and client control - particularly in the age of the Internet, in which we are all bombarded with a wealth of information and potential opportunities on a daily basis. It can be quite frustrating to be close to filling a position or placing a candidate, only to have the candidate, the candidate's spouse or the employer's partners pull the plug on moving forward. Being able to anticipate everything that could go wrong and addressing each of those possible issues ahead of time is a critical element of being a successful recruiter."
What would he say is the most important thing he learned as a legal recruiter? "Perhaps the most important thing I have learned as a legal recruiter is that most lawyers are not only very intelligent, hard-working, interesting and successful people, but generally quite personable, ethical, socially-conscious and family-oriented as well (despite the sometimes negative perception many non-lawyers - and even some lawyers themselves - have regarding members of the profession)."
What is Mr. Heldenbrand known for professionally? He pointed out:
"I believe that I am most known for being trustworthy (including always protecting the confidentiality of my candidates and clients), ethical, hard-working, caring, detail-oriented and persistent. These traits have resulted in my having made numerous great long-term matches, some of which have lasted in excess of 25 years. As just one example of Riverbend Group's professional ethics, our standard recruiting agreement includes a lifetime 'hands-off' policy with respect to attempting to recruit anyone we have placed with an employer - even if the placed attorney proactively contacts us seeking a new position. My former employer, The McCormick Group, is the only other search firm I know to have this policy. Unfortunately, some other recruiters give our profession a black eye by 'bringing people in through the front door and taking them out the back'."
What does he look for to find the right fit? What makes a great candidate? "I try very hard to be a good listener. When talking with both candidates and employers, I take copious notes and do my very best to make sure that the professional and personal (including family) goals of all involved are met through the matches I make."
In regards to what makes a great candidate, Mr. Heldenbrand said:
"A great candidate is someone who is forthright, realistic, self-confident, has a stable employment history, knows (or with help can determine) what his/her goals are, and is willing to listen to professional advice. While academic credentials, portable business (at the partner/counsel level), specialized legal expertise and other factors are often critically important as well, not every lawyer needs to work for a top global law firm or corporation in order to have a fulfilling career and personal/family life."
Does Mr. Heldenbrand have a recipe for a perfect match? He revealed:
"I believe that motivation is a key factor in making a perfect match. If both the employer and candidate are committed to each other and to the long-term success of the 'match,' it has an excellent chance of working out despite any challenge(s) that may exist. On the other hand, all the skill and intelligence (or firm resources) in the world won't overcome a lack of commitment. In this respect, a 'perfect' career match resembles a successful marriage."
What are his strengths and at least one of his weaknesses as a recruiter? Mr. Heldenbrand candidly disclosed:
"My main strengths have been discussed. My primary weakness - which ironically exists as a result of one of my mentioned strengths - is probably that I care so much about wanting to help both client employers and candidates achieve their goals that I can be overly optimistic regarding the possibility of success; that is, I sometimes don't know when to give up and move on based upon market conditions, etc."
Where does Mr. Heldenbrand see the legal field in the next five years? He responded:
"I see advances in technology and science (forensics, etc.) continuing to improve the efficiency of legal practice, both at law firms and in-house. I also anticipate an eventual sea change in how law firms charge for their services. This change has begun in earnest due in large part to the economic downturn which began in mid-2008 (for the majority of my clients, at least) and has affected global law firm practice in very significant ways since then. Many smaller firms are leading the way with regard to flat fees, success fees, pre-paid legal services, etc. At the same time, hourly billing rates at the largest firms continue to escalate, especially as regards certain legal specialty areas where talent is scarce as well as "bet-the-company" matters in which $1,000+ hourly rates pale in comparison to the millions or billions of dollars at stake."
Where does he see the legal recruiting field in the next five years? Mr. Heldenbrand noted:
"I see legal recruiting becoming increasing automated, with many recruiters and employers alike preferring to collect people's résumés without taking the time to talk with them and get to know them as individuals. I see this as an unfortunate circumstance which not only goes against my own preferred way of working, but also has the potential to violate the confidentiality of currently-employed candidates who are interested in finding out whether a particular opening is a good match but who may not be ready to send their confidential information to a website without knowing who might see it."
What motivates him to be a legal recruiter every day? "I am motivated by the daily opportunity to work with interesting and exciting employers and candidates, and by my desire to bring them together in ways that result in positive and lasting relationships which are both mutually beneficial and productive to society."
Where does Mr. Heldenbrand derive his confidence? He explained:
"I derive my confidence largely as a result of my upbringing. I have been blessed with wonderful, supportive parents who taught my siblings and me that we could succeed at anything we might set out to do - and that as long as we tried our hardest, they wouldn't be disappointed in us if we failed. My wife, children, and other family members and friends have also been very supportive of the career and personal decisions I have made."
Counting His Blessings, Pro Bono Work, People Who Inspire Mr. Heldenbrand and His Passions
Has Mr. Heldenbrand faced any obstacles in his life? He expressed:
"I have been fortunate so far in not having had to face the kinds of extreme obstacles faced by others I know and about whose travails and misfortunes I have read or heard. On a much smaller scale, I have had the decidedly bad luck of rupturing not just one, but both of my Achilles tendons over the past four years or so. The first incident occurred while I was playing tennis, and involved a complete rupture of my right tendon. A year ago, the left tendon became torn (perhaps as a result of over-compensating for the weakened right tendon) and had to be repaired as well before it tore completely. These surgeries gave me a new appreciation for the challenges faced on a daily basis by many handicapped persons, as I was confined to a wheelchair and only able to get around on crutches in each situation for what seemed like an eternity. Even after I no longer required crutches, the extensive physical therapy sessions and home exercises went on for months following each surgery. I am now back to playing tennis and working out at the gym as often as I can, although I'm being careful not to re-injure my Achilles tendons or hurt any other part of my aging body."
Does he work with any non-profits? "I have not done any extensive recruiting work on behalf of non-profit organizations, although I did do a bit of pro bono recruiting a few years back for American Rivers, a wonderful group dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring America's rivers. (For more information, see the group's website, www.AmericanRivers.org.)"
Who inspires Mr. Heldenbrand? "I am inspired by my beautiful wife of 30 years, 'Lupe.' She is always very positive and encouraging, and motivates me to be the very best person that I can be. She is very energetic, and is always 'on the go' no matter where she may be or what she may be doing. She is also a very warm person with a great sense of humor, and other people are naturally attracted to her."
What causes is he passionate about? "As a result of recent conversations with a fellow member of my church, my father, and others, I am currently considering becoming actively involved in Kairos Prison Ministry International (www.mykairos.org), a group dedicated to helping prisoners find hope and turn their lives around. I am also passionate about the need to protect our environment, National and State Park systems, rivers and lakes, etc., for generations to come. Lastly, I'm a strong advocate for donating blood on behalf of worthy organizations, and have been a regular donor for many years under the assigned 'Buddy Program' at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C. (www.childrensnational.org)."
Favorite Quote and Mr. Heldenbrand's Goals
Does Mr. Heldenbrand have a favorite quote? He stated:
"One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, who said, 'Whatever you are, be a good one.' This statement not only provides good career advice and hence a nice tie-in to the recruiting business, but also mirrors the advice my parents gave (and continue to give) to my siblings and me. It's pithy, and I like it so much that I include it below my contact information in most introductory e-mail messages I send."
Does he have goals? Mr. Heldenbrand said:
"My professional goals include continuing to make the best matches I can possibly make, for as long as I can continue to do so. My personal goals include trying to maintain good health, spending more time relaxing and traveling with my wife and family, playing tennis as often as I can, and becoming more skilled in fly fishing - an activity I enjoy engaging in with my older brother Dave, a college professor in Utah who has invited me on numerous fly-fishing trips to Alaska and other incredibly beautiful locations (usually along with an RV packed full with several of his fellow professors/fly-fishing enthusiasts)."