As recruiters and counselors to attorneys at all levels in an ever-changing legal industry, we strive to provide objective and straightforward advice so that attorneys feel well-equipped to make strategic decisions regarding their career advancement.

What are the Do's and Dont's for Working Successfully With a Recruiter?

What are the Do's and Dont's for Working Successfully With a Recruiter?

By Elizabeth Lazzara Smith, Esq.
Senior Managing Director
t. 212.897.0985
elizabeth.lazzarasmith@sjlsearch.com
website bio

The decision to make a lateral move can take many forms. Perhaps you have a friend who made a lateral move who provides you with his or her recruiter’s name because you’ve decided to begin a full-fledged search. Or perhaps you dip your toe into the lateral pool more slowly: you pick up the phone one day to hear a recruiter on the other end pitch a position that sounds intriguing so you decide to explore that one-off position by submitting a resume. Regardless of how you choose to conduct your search, the recommendations below will help you navigate the search process efficiently and successfully.

DO speak with several recruiters before you start a search.
Although some associates believe they have nothing to gain from speaking with a recruiter unless they imminently plan to leave their firms, all attorneys benefit from having strategic ongoing discussions with market-expert recruiters well in advance of contemplating a potential move.

A recruiter can tell you whether the work you’re doing is on par with what associates are doing at your level at peer firms or whether your substantive experience is lagging. A recruiter can also tell you if your practice area or client base is doing you a disservice based on your long-term goals. For instance, if you eventually want to move in-house to a public company but you are a capital markets lawyer representing exclusively underwriters, you might be at a disadvantage as compared to a lawyer representing borrowers. Finally, a recruiter can answer myriad questions you might have about various firm cultures, lifestyles, partnership prospects, compensation, and exit opportunities.

After you’ve spoken with a few recruiters and have identified the one with whom you best connected, then…

DO select one recruiter to represent you in connection with any submissions.
As a potential lateral candidate your main priority should be to identify a recruiter who—along with his or her company—is well-respected by clients. That recruiter should meet with you in person to learn about your background and practice, understand your professional and personal goals, and provide insight about the various positions that align with your goals.

Partnering with one well-regarded recruiter and having him or her manage a search process tremendously benefits a candidate. When an associate partners with one recruiter, she can feel confident that she is receiving objective advice.

Furthermore, strong associates know that working with one recruiter is beneficial for time-management because they do not have time to manage multiple recruiters. Firms regularly ask recruiters whether they are representing a given candidate on an exclusive basis. An affirmative response signals to the firm that the associate is thoughtful about her search process, is not submitting her resume carelessly to several recruiters out of a sense of desperation to make a move, and enables the firm to stay apprised of how the associate’s search process is progressing with other competing firms.

DON’T allow your resume to be submitted without your explicit written consent. 
A leading recruiter will only introduce your materials to a client after you’ve authorized that recruiter to do so. For your protection—as well as to memorialize the date for your records—provide that authorization via an email wherein you write the names of the firms or in-house organizations where you would like your materials to be submitted.

DON’T fall into the trap of believing that there are “exclusive” searches.
Despite what you might have heard from other recruiters, law firms almost never engage a search firm on an “exclusive” basis. Their goal is to find the best attorney for the position and to do so they will work with all reputable search firms. Just because you hear about a given position from a recruiter does not obligate you to work with that recruiter and should not in any way suggest that that recruiter has some sort of strong relationship to the firm.

So when a recruiter calls you about a position, whether or not it is pitched as an exclusive one, discuss it with the recruiter you’ve chosen to manage your search process. If you’ve chosen to partner with a leading reputable recruiter, then that recruiter will almost always be able to introduce your materials to the firm. And if the position does turn out to be that rare “exclusive” one, feel confident that, because you selected a recruiter with a solid reputation, your recruiter will let you know.

Finally, DO be candid and transparent throughout your entire search process, and expect the same from your recruiter.
A recruiter will be most effective only when he or she is aware of everything pertaining to your search. Thus, if you are also exploring in-house positions on your own, or if you are thinking about a possible relocation, or even if you aren’t sure you’re ready to leave your firm, don’t be afraid to tell your recruiter! Not only will this information help your recruiter manage your search process, but a recruiter’s ongoing relationship with his clients relies on his reputation, and thus you will be putting that recruiter in an awkward position if it looks like he is not apprised of matters that impact your candidacy.

For that reason, no confident, well-respected recruiter will pressure you into a decision that doesn’t make sense for you. That potential short-term gain would be detrimental to the recruiter’s long-term reputation and continued success. So, if you are working with a leading recruiter, be open and honest, knowing that the recruiter will be the same with you.

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