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How to Use a Legal Recruiter

published April 24, 2015

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( 396 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
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Summary: Legal recruiters save time and effort for employers and candidates in the legal job search process and ensure a smooth transition for both during the process.
Here is detailed information non how to use a legal recruiter.

Legal recruiting is widely accepted around the world. In the major legal hubs of New York and London, for example, it is the accepted norm for firms and corporate employers to approach legal recruiters for their hiring needs. It is equally common for lawyers, ranging in level from junior associates to senior partners and General Counsel, to entrust their job search to recruiters.

See this comprehensive guide to working with a legal recruiter for to learn about more aspects of working with a legal recruiter.

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At the most general level, legal recruiters save time and effort for employers and candidates in the legal job search process and act as 'middlemen' ensuring a smooth transition during the process.

A legal recruiter obtains instructions from legal employers (be it a firm or corporation) who are looking to hire lawyers. Recruiters are compensated by the employer in a number of ways that may include retainer and contingency arrangements, which are generally based on a percentage of the hired lawyer's remuneration.

Upon obtaining instructions, good recruiters will then spend the necessary time to get to know the employer in order to best market and fill the position. The recruiter will then attempt to fill the vacancy using one or more methods. Some of the more common recruitment methods include file search, advertising and search. File search involves sourcing out suitable candidates who are already actively seeking a job and have registered with the recruiter. Advertising involves conducting a full advertising campaign to source out passive candidates who may not be actively looking but who may find the advertised vacancies intriguing. Finally, search or "headhunting" candidates involves the legal recruiter initiating contact with potentially suitable candidates to alert them to the relevant vacancies.

The most professional legal recruiters will then put the same effort as they used in learning about a vacancy into screening the candidates that are sourced. This is undertaken in the interests of both the candidate and the client, since the goal, at the end of the day, is to find the right fit for both parties. Detailed notes of the most suitable candidates are then forwarded, confidentially, to the client who can then decide, with the input of the recruiter, which individuals to pursue.

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Recruiters then arrange interviews, obtain feedback from both sides, steer the process and keep it on track. As that track narrows, a good recruiter is also a valuable resource as an intermediary in negotiations. Throughout the process, the recruiter should not release a candidate's details without having obtained specific consent and, more generally, will do everything reasonably necessary to ensure confidentiality and discretion.

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It is important to keep in mind that the recruiter's client is the employer and not the candidate. That said, all candidates should expect to be treated professionally, in a courteous and honest manner. Building the right relationship with a recruiter is critical to you finding a position. It is also important to get the recruiter on your side, as it is the recruiter's responsibility to interview potential candidates for positions and produce initial shortlists.

To get the most out of your recruiter you should keep the following things in mind.

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Initial contact:

A good way to make initial contact with a recruiter is to send a complete package of materials (including resume, transaction summaries, and transcripts) via fax, mail, or email, followed up with a phone call a few days later to ensure that your package arrived at its destination. The recruiter can quickly pick up the key points in your background from your materials and determine if he/she can be of assistance.

Cover letters:

Keep cover letters short. Set out briefly your objectives and reference the specific job vacancy you are applying for, if any, and leave it at that. Regardless of whether you are using a legal recruiter or not, we advise that anything of a substantive nature on your cover letter be included in your resume.

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Responding to advertisements:

Be reasonable when applying to advertisements. Recruiters take fairly specific instructions from clients. So, if you have been practicing for 30 years, chances are that responding to an advertisement calling for a lawyer with 1 years' experience will be futile. Also, if applying to a specific campaign that is being exclusively handled by a recruiter, do not attempt an "end-run" around the recruiter by applying directly to the employer. An "end-run" approach may backfire since direct applications that a client receives are redirected back to the recruiter. Your details end up at the recruiter's, and you will not have endeared yourself to the recruiter or to the client (who has retained the recruiter to take the hassle of hiring out of their hands in the first place).

Approaching a recruiter after taking other steps:

It is important for you to know that recruiters cannot duplicate efforts. If you have flooded the market either with direct applications or through another recruiter, it is unlikely that the recruiter will be able to spend significant time on your file. It is critical that you inform your recruiter in full detail about all the steps you have taken in your job search. If an organization receives your details from more than one recruiter, chances are that they will not pursue you since they do not want to risk becoming involved in a recruitment fee dispute.

Meeting a recruiter:

If you have made arrangements to meet a recruiter, some prior preparation may be helpful. Candidates should spend some time reflecting on their long and mid-term career goals and current objectives prior to the meeting. It is easier to assist candidates who have clearly defined objectives. Finally, you may want to begin lining-up, at least in your mind, relevant references that may be required.

Being honest:

Yes, sometimes candidates are not always that straight with us! Lawyers are of most use to a client when the client is completely honest with them. The same can be said when using a recruiter. Anything that you feel may be worth hiding from your recruiter will ultimately be disclosed before you receive any offer, whether during subsequent client interviews or through reference checking. It is a much sounder strategy to be honest from the outset. There is not much that we have not heard before and, often, the perceived problem turns out not to be a problem at all. More importantly, a legal recruiter will be less likely to market you favorably if he/she thinks you are prone to withhold full disclosure.

Expect to be asked some pretty direct questions by a recruiter. These will include why you are looking for alternative employment, what your performance reviews have been, and what your relevant remuneration package is.

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If you have been straight with your recruiter, then it's the least that you can expect in return. Some recruiters have a habit of promising the world and then delivering nothing. A good recruiter will manage your expectations and let you know to what extent he/she can help. Sometimes the recruiter will want to work with you exclusively. Other times, the recruiter may recommend other professional recruiters you should be talking to. Our view is that taking the straight approach is in everyone's interest.

  "I'm willing to join a firm/corporation at a more junior level."

Although many lawyers are willing to take a step back in order to ultimately move forward, we have found that legal employers are not generally amenable to this type of arrangement. There are a number of reasons for this. Some employers simply would rather hire someone greener and have the opportunity to train him or her up themselves. Equally, many corporations have strict internal salary structures and an established seniority hierarchy that may be thrown out of whack if they took on someone senior to fill a more junior role. From the candidate's point of view, accepting a more junior position and working with junior people as contemporaries often turns out to be more difficult than anticipated. The result is often resentment, which leaves the individual no better off for having taken the job.

"I've had experience in Area A, but I now want to pursue Area B and know that I can do it."

Lawyers are adaptive creatures and we have absolutely no doubt that, given time and training, the vast majority could ably navigate new areas of law in which they otherwise had no experience. The real problem is getting in the door. Employers who are hiring in Area B naturally want to see people with experience in Area B. As noted, recruiters receive very specific instructions from our clients and must work within the stated parameters.

"My experience and background fits the job described in the ad perfectly. Why didn't I get an interview?"

Lawyers are becoming increasingly mobile. More and more of them are on the job market. As a result, recruiters often receive a voluminous response to advertisements. Many applicants may be a match in terms of the core skill set required but, because of the large response, our clients may choose to differentiate candidates based on additional or unique skills or attributes that they may bring to the table, aside from the core requirements. Applying is not a futile process, however, since the next client may pinpoint someone with your own unique skill set as the right candidate.

"Why does it seem that all employers want lawyers with large firm experience? I know for a fact that you only get a limited amount of exposure to high level work at the big firms and that smaller firm or in-house practice provides lawyers with a greater level of responsibility and broader exposure to different areas of law."

The reality is that one simply cannot generalize about the quality of experience you get in a large firm compared to a smaller firm or in-house. Most people will agree, however, that the experience is certainly different. Despite the perception that employers will only look at candidates with certain backgrounds, the truth is that many lawyers who do not fit "within the box" have been successful in obtaining desirable employment both in private practice and in-house.

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published April 24, 2015

( 396 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.