As a legal recruiter, it goes without saying that my days are spent reaching out to candidates for potential placements at law firms and being met with a fair share of reluctance from those candidates when it comes to chatting about the opportunity being offered. However, I’ve found that the more junior the attorney or associate, the more hesitant they are to engage in conversation. And, I get it. Junior associates, especially those at large firms, have gotten where they are by keeping their heads down throughout their brief careers transitioning from academia to now practicing at a firm—and, hopefully in a field—for which they worked so hard to land. In law school, they got good grades, graduated in the top 5, 10, 15%, etc., made law review, Order of the Coif, and various honors, etc. As new associates they follow instructions, meet their billable hours, and dare not think that the firm they’ve landed at might not be the right fit long-term. Further, why would an associate want to move after only a year or two, or maybe three or four, only to land at another firm that, in their mind, is likely very similar to their current firm in most respects. Lest their resume start to project the impression that they’re a “job hopper”.
But, new associates should resist the urge to hit the “Send to Voicemail” option the next time a recruiter’s name shows up on caller ID. And, don’t delete the unsolicited email you received before you consider the Five Benefits Young Associates Can Gain By Speaking With Legal Recruiters below.
1. Recruiters Know Which Firms Need to Add Associates – In a given week, a recruiter is speaking with a half dozen or more hiring contacts at firms with whom the recruiter has an existing relationship. The recruiter understands the critical, and sometimes desperate, areas of need for their law firm clients. Certain practices at certain firms are even looking to add first year associates. That’s right! That firm you dropped your resume with during OCI in your 2L year that didn’t give you a call back may now be the firm the recruiter is working with and they’re looking for an associate who has one year of experience in your practice area. Don’t let pride or spite get in the way now. Find out which firm it is!
2. Recruiters Understand the Needs of Their Client Firms – When you accepted the offer of the firm you’re now practicing at, chances are you had an idea of what area of law you wanted to practice in. But, did you have any idea if the firm you were accepting with had any real need in that area? When you arrived on day one, would there be enough work for you to meet your billable hours requirement? Well, guess what? Recruiters know the practice areas that are getting hammered with work. Granted, it’s not rocket science. You can likely figure out what areas are hot given some time and effort (Spoiler alert: You’re being called. What’s your practice?). However, a recruiter knows the firm, the office, and likely the partner or partners that need help. They know what class years within the practice group have gaps. And, they can help you target your presentation as a candidate with these things in mind.
3. Recruiters Know Which Firms Are a Cultural Fit for Candidates – Choosing your first law firm is a lot like dating. You’ve read the firm’s profile online. You’ve searched through opinions in traditional and social media. You’ve chatted over the phone and had some limited interaction face-to-face. If you’re lucky, you clerked for the firm you’re now working for and your initial impressions have held true and you picked the firm that was the best fit for you. But, for many, you only received a couple of offers—or, maybe just one. You’re at the firm that offered you your first job as an attorney because you had no other option. Don’t let blind loyalty get in the way of exploring whether an opportunity now being presented to you is a better fit culturally. Guess what? If it’s not, it’s not. And, you stay where you are. But, what if it is? What if the firm that is working with the recruiter is the firm you always wanted to clerk for, but didn’t call you back. Or, what if your current firm just isn’t what you thought it would be? Tell the recruiter what you’re looking for as far as the cultural fit is concerned.
4. Recruiters Know Which Firms Offer the Best Potential for Long-Term Promotion and Success – The numbers don’t lie. True, past numbers are never an exact indicator of a future action or success. However, they can be a darn good indicator. What’s the average number of years before an associate is promoted to partner? How many women are partners, and how many were recently promoted to partner? Is the same true for my firm and my office? Am I less likely to be promoted in a regional office than I am in the firm’s headquarters or a larger office? Can the same be said of the firm the recruiter is working with? The recruiter should know the answer to these questions. Don’t be afraid to consider whether another firm is right for you and your long-term success.
5. Recruiters Know How Associates Are Compensated – There are very few secrets in the world of associate compensation at large law firms. You’re either in a major market or you’re not. Your firm either compensates its associates on par with its peers or it doesn’t. That’s why I’ve listed compensation as the last benefit. It’s not because it’s the least important. But, chances are, if you know the name of the firm, you can find out how they compensate their associates—at least through the first six to eight years of their careers. Learn the name of the firm the recruiter is working with, and learn what the compensation model is. All things being equal, would you rather make less or more? Don’t need an additional $20k this year? I’ll gladly accept any surplus you're looking to redistribute. If you’ll be living in the same place, doing the same type of work, working at a firm with people just as bright and as capable as those you’re currently working with, then, yes, it’s OK to make a move because you want more money! It happens every day, in every line of work.
I find it interesting, that as lawyers move forward in their careers, they’re more likely to respond to recruiters. Perhaps, in letting the thought of working elsewhere enter their mind, newer lawyers feel as if they’d be betraying their current firm’s trust. Or, perhaps they feel they’re perfectly positioned and never need to move anyway. However, there is always value in keeping your finger on the pulse of the market—any market. In this case it’s the market for attorneys. Which way is the market moving? Which firms are hiring? Which practices are hot, which are not? Which firms are anticipating an uptick in certain practices? As a new associate, you owe it to yourself and your career to know these answers. Best of all, this information is free for the most part. All you have to do is let a recruiter fill you. Chances are, you’ll hear from one soon.
by Cade Hamner, an attorney recruiter based in Dallas, Texas.