Our team of Texas legal recruiters recently attended the annual conference of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC), the professional organization that promulgates ethical standards and best practices in the legal recruiting profession. The key note speech was presented by James Merklinger, Vice President and General Counsel of the Association of Corporate Counsel. His talk about in-house legal department trends was insightful and we thought would be of interest to many of our readers. Below is a brief summary of our annotations:
Articles under Career Goals
When looking to join an in-house legal department, you will meet a variety of interviewers. Some will be lawyers and others not. While your legal department interviewers may be excellent lawyers or business people, they might not all be the most effective recruiters. You may encounter good interviewers having a bad day, inexperienced or unprepared interviewers, or those who have ineffective methods for eliciting the information they need to make the best hiring decisions.
Competition in and among private law firms has never been greater, and the pressure on lawyers at all levels to develop new business is intense. Many law firms compete for the same business clients and being a talented lawyer with excellent legal skills is no longer enough. Today’s lawyers must have the ability to attract, retain and expand relationships with their clients, which is often easier said than done. Very few graduate from law school with business development training. Frequently, the pressure to bill sufficient hours during associates’ early years leaves little time and energy for client development efforts, especially when you’re not sure where or how to start.
Whether in private practice or a corporate legal department, having a niche legal practice is critical to a lawyer’s success and opportunities today. A specialty also translates to more control over your career and the number of options available to you: whether you want to change firms, move in-house, or pursue an alternative legal practice of some sort. Our December blog discussed this prevailing trend and the importance of having a niche, along with some of the reasons why specialization has replaced the traditional wisdom of being a generalist who can handle almost any type of legal matter. This month we explore how to choose a niche and develop one a bit further.
In our work as legal recruiters, we talk to candidates every day about job opportunities and what they seek in a new position. Many times we actively solicit attorneys with niche practice areas for specific client needs and there are some firms we call first – because we know that job satisfaction at certain firms is low and highly qualified associates are eager for a new opportunity. But there are some firms where the job satisfaction is so high that associates rarely want to leave and won’t even consider a new opportunity, no matter how great it is.
158 people move to Austin each day, and 400,000 into Texas each year. Numerous publications have marveled at the growth and economic strength of our Lone Star State in the past year – such as Forbes, USA Today, Bloomberg and Kiplingers to name a few. Two recent reports caught our attention and prompted our legal recruiters to ask what these trends mean for both employers seeking top talent for highly skilled jobs and job seekers in a competitive, educated workforce. As legal recruiters based in Texas and with extensive experience here, we see firsthand the impact of these factors at play as well as some significant secondary consequences that we thought our clients and candidates would find helpful.
“To succeed in the new world, you have to sell yourself. You go to a brand-name college, not to imbibe the wisdom of its professors, but to make impressions and connections. You pick a niche that can bring attention to yourself and then develop your personal public relations efforts to let the world know who you are.” – Alan Wolfe, New York Times Book Review, 7 Jan. 2001
Candidates frequently ask our Texas legal recruiters whether to send thank you notes after an interview. If so, how and when? The question has sometimes vexed us, given the vast changes the information age has brought to the workplace. Not all that long ago, law school graduates were taught to send out hard copies of their resumes on high quality “resume paper” and to always follow up with a note handwritten in black ink on Crane’s stationery.
Every day at Momentum Search Partners, law firm attorneys call our recruiters seeking in-house positions because they want to work closer to the business team, be more involved in a company’s business decisions and be part of the overall “big picture” strategy that corporate legal work typically provides. Part of our job as legal recruiters is to dig deeper to determine which candidates really understand what being part of the business team means – and whether they can successfully make the transition. A critical factor is communication and the ability to connect with the business team. But what does that mean, exactly?
Anyone looking for a new job should consider calling a reputable recruiter that specializes in their profession. For lawyers, that will be a legal headhunter. Eilene Zimmerman, in her “Career Couch” column in The New York Times, recently published an article on “Recruiting a Recruiter For Your Next Job.” It answers some basic questions about how to find a reputable recruiter and how to stay on their radar, so that you’re positioned to know about as many potential opportunities as possible. Most of what she says is right on target, but there are several questions we’re frequently that she didn’t address. Our team of legal and compliance headhunters has found that candidates typically have the following questions in mind, even if they don’t explicitly ask them: