There are thousands of legal recruiters in the US and some are better than others. As a potential client, not knowing what to look for in a legal recruiter can be disastrous. Here’s a recent example of two candidates who mistakenly placed their trust in the same legal recruiting firm:
“My husband and I both submitted our resume to the agency to help in our job search. We submitted our resumes separately, of course and we both received an email back saying they do not have the resources to help us. Both of us have 15 years of experience, so I am not sure who they help.”
As opposed to their experience, a good legal recruiter should be knowledgeable, focused, responsive, dedicated, reputable and trustworthy. Determining how good a recruiter is at their job isn’t easy, but we’ve provided several ways you can screen them. Read on to learn more about how to spot those must-have legal recruiter qualities.
How to Find the Best Legal Recruiter for the Job
The best recruiters often require you finding them and starting that conversation. A recruiter is an advocate that has the ability to get your resume in front of the right people. Experienced legal recruiters have spent years developing relationships with law firms and corporate legal departments for the benefit of their candidates. A recruiter also provides additional information to a hiring manager by gaining more details than a cover letter can adequately explain.
Finding a recruiter is the easy part; determining their level of success and network reach can be a challenge though. However, there are more resources at your disposal than you think.
Ask for Recommendations
One of the best ways to find a qualified recruiter is to ask former and present colleagues for recommendations. Discretely reach out to fellow members of professional associations, LinkedIn contacts, friends, college alumni, and family members to inquire about their personal experience with recruiters.
Check Professional Association Resources
Review the job listings in professional publications and notice which agencies are advertising to members of your group. Some professional organizations support recruiters presenting at conferences or staff vendor tables which will provide the chance for you to connect with them on a personal level.
Meet in Person
Whenever possible, meet a recruiter in person. It’s highly beneficial for both parties. The recruiter will have a better idea of your personality and other intangibles that factor into this process. We regularly have clients ask, “Have you met this candidate in person?” Really can make a difference and will help the recruiter.
Qualities the Best Legal Recruiters Have
Once you’ve compiled a list of search firms that you may want to partner with it’s time to further narrow down those candidates. To make it happen, here are some key qualities to look for in the headhunter:
They Serve Your Industry or Placement Type
There are two types of recruiters. Some search firms only focus on one tier of legal professionals, like attorneys or administrative staffing. First, determine what type of position that your firm or company is looking to fill, for example C-level, Director, Executive Assistant, Paralegal or all the above.
A generalist will work across several industry platforms with often a large range of candidates – entry level to directors. This can be a good choice for someone with a broad job history and diverse experience. A second option is a specialty recruiter that focus on one professional industry (i.e. legal, technology or sales). With legal recruiters, a sector of the market is typically carved-out — that could mean attorneys only or partner-level only. While other legal recruiters focus on staff.
Finding a search firm with expertise recruiting at all skill levels may make them a better long-term solution for all your needs. Look for recruiters that can handle the search entirely on their own, or that offer resources to supplement an internal recruiting department effort. Before agreeing to work with any recruiter, thoroughly research the legal recruiting firm that they are affiliated with and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions.
They Have a Well-Established Background as a Recruiter
If a recruiter has never walked in your shoes as an attorney or paralegal it may be hard for them to understand your perspective. How long have they been a recruiter? If they are part of a search firm, which headhunter will be specifically assigned to handle your firm or company?
They Have Several Resources at Their Disposal
Ask about the search firm’s passive and active recruiting tactics and tools. How do they identify, attract and screen qualified candidates? Do they maintain a proprietary database and paid subscriptions to industry specific candidate pools?
They Value Confidentiality
Confidentiality is key for both clients and candidates. If you’re a candidate, will the recruiter not post your resume anywhere else without your express prior authorization? Are they adept at only screening candidates that are highly qualified to interview for a specific opening? Do they value the confidentiality of all parties involved?
They Are Responsive and Readily Available
When your firm’s hourly billable rate is hundreds of dollars, trying to reach a nonresponsive headhunter who doesn’t value your time lowers your bottom line. A good recruiter will be readily available when you need them, including weekends or evenings, and will use several communication methods to stay in touch.
They Have an “Off Limits” Policy
Reputable search firms follow an “off limits” policy, which means they will not recruit from clients where they have active searches or recent placements. As a potential employer, will this off-limits policy affect your recruiting timetable?
They Are a Full-Service Recruiter
A full-service recruiting firm will offer everything that you’re looking for, including a job description, sourcing and screening of candidates, interview coordination and preparation, negotiation assistance, and post-hiring integration of new hires.
They Have a Tested and Proven Process
Ask questions to understand the process. Make sure the recruiter understands the type of work you do and how this aligns with the type of job you’re seeking. Do they work with candidates with a similar skill set to yours? Do they work with employers that are looking to hire someone with your background and experience? Ask how their entire recruiting to placement process works, including points of contact, resume review and coordinating interviews. Does the recruiter provide a transparent roadmap for candidate delivery?
They Have Reasonable Fees, Policies and Guarantees
Many legal search firms will charge a different fee for placing attorneys as opposed to staff. Find out what the recruiter’s fees are, for how long the search firm guarantees the new hire, and what their replacement or refund policies are.
They Have a Great Reputation within the Market
This may be the most important quality to look for when hiring a recruiter. Your career or firm’s reputation is too valuable to work with a recruiter that you’re not comfortable with. Investigate the search firm’s reputation by reading online reviews, their website and LinkedIn profile. Are there any client testimonials that might lead you to believe that the headhunter isn’t reputable?
They Have a Robust Candidate Portfolio
Another area where a good legal search firm provides value is by presenting a vast portfolio of on-point candidates who are not currently in the job market. The ability to develop and maintain key relationships with highly qualified candidates in one of the main benefits of partnering with a search firm. Does the recruiter stay in touch with highly sought-after legal professionals that could fill anticipated openings at your firm or company?
They Have a High Level of Market Knowledge
Any recruiter worth hiring should stay constantly updated on hot practice areas, business news that impacts your industry, compensation, and the level of search that’s required. Does the recruiting firm in question have a strong working knowledge of your search market? Are they located in the same city or state in which you want to work or hire? A good recruiter should be knowledgeable about their market and be able to share that information with you, like what the going rate (aka compensation) is for a job and for someone with your skillset and experience, advice regarding your resume, and interview preparation.
6 Things to Discuss with a Legal Recruiter
Once you’ve figured out how to find a legal recruiter and have selected your ideal candidate, your work isn’t over. You need to know how to ask the right questions and discuss the ideal topics with your recruiter. Doing so will not only effectively communicate your experience and qualification so that you can get access to the best positions, but it will also help you know how to find a good recruiter. In this section, we will discuss what to ask a legal recruiter prior to picking one.
Question #1: “What is your prior legal experience?”
One of the unpleasant realities of the recruiter market is that many in legal recruiter jobs are entirely unqualified for the position. Industry website Above the Law notes, “Many ‘recruiters’ are jumping into the market for the first time. Some have no recruiting experience, no legal experience, no experience in your geographic market of interest, and/or no relationship with or knowledge of the firm they want to send your résumé to.” This is the exact opposite of what you want to look for when hiring a recruiter.
Recruiters without any legal experience of their own will struggle in helping you find the kinds of positions for which you’re best suited. They also may lack the know-how to effectively communicate with prestigious firms.
Question #2: “Do you know why I’m searching for a new position?”
When you’re considering how to find a good legal recruiter, remember that you’re the most important variable in the hiring equation. Your qualifications, experience level, field of study, preferred geographical location, and interest level all determine whether or not your legal recruiter can work well with you. For instance, if you’ve solely worked in patent law and your recruiter primarily deals with entertainment law, you two will make a poor fit.
Question #3: “Do you know what my idea is of the ideal company culture?”
Similar to the previous point, one of the pros and cons of legal recruiter services is specialization. Recruiters may focus fairly narrowly, which works well if their field includes the kind of firm at which you’d love to work. But there are many types of legal firms, including everything from solo practitioners to large full-service firms. Ensure that your recruiter understands your preferred firm type and can place you in one like it.
Question #4: “Can you place me with a firm that will meet my compensation expectations?”
The desire for increased compensation is a major reason why legal candidates seek out a recruiter. If you decide on a recruiter who has good connections but cannot provide a placement that will meet your salary requirements, you’ll end up disappointed. Have a frank discussion with your recruiter about the kind of pay you expect to receive.
Question #5: “Can you place me with firms that are in my preferred locations?”
Just as recruiters tend to focus on specific types of laws and specific kinds of firms, they also often specialize in certain cities and/or geographic regions. Applicants eager to land in certain cities should confirm that their recruiter does indeed have connections within a desired locale. Also, when working out how to find a good legal recruiter, one helpful rule of thumb to know is that recruiters tend to have their closest relationships in the cities where they’re located.
Question #6: “Can you work with my desired time frame?”
If recruiters know when you’d like to move, they can work much more effectively toward helping you find a position. Consider the matter from their point of view: Should they find an ideal opening and you can’t claim it, then it hurts their reputation, costs them valuable time, and makes you seem like a less desirable client. Confirming the time frame for your move helps ensure everyone’s success.
Your Client-Trusted Legal Recruiting Firm in Texas
Momentum Search Partners is your trusted legal recruiting firm in Texas. With offices in Austin, Dallas, and Houston, our six headhunters keep their fingers constantly on the pulse of the local and statewide legal markets. With a combined 100 years of industry experience and over 1,000 placements, we connect elite Texas legal departments and law firms with exceptional talent every day. Start experiencing the Momentum difference today by contacting one of our award-winning legal recruiters!