Working with a Legal Search Firm: The Five Basics You Need to Know

So, you have reached that point in your legal career where you want to make a move.  Perhaps you want to expand your practice into a new area of the law, perhaps you want to move in-house, perhaps you need to relocate to a different part of the country, or perhaps you simply feel that you have outgrown your current position.  In all of those circumstances, you are excited about taking on new opportunities, new challenges, and more responsibility.  But, how to begin?

As you dust off your resume, the complexity of a legal career move starts to become clear:  What firm or company focuses on the practice area most interesting to me?  How do I differentiate between the many large and mid-sized law firms in my area?  What employer provides the culture and career progression that works best for me?  Am I even aware of all of the available job opportunities out there?

Then, fortune smiles and you recall those phone calls you received from legal search firms, asking if you would be interested in making a move.  Although at the time you politely said to the recruiter, “thanks, but I’m happy where I am,” you now begin to consider whether it would be worthwhile to get a legal recruiter’s assistance.  Maybe you even kept a recruiter’s contact information – just in case.

If you have never worked with a legal recruiter before, however, reaching out to one raises a host of new questions:  What will a legal recruiter be able to do for me?    What is the process in working with a recruiter?  Will my resume and information be kept confidential, particularly from my current employer?

If you are thinking about working with a legal search firm and are asking yourself some of those same questions, read on.  This article answers the five basic questions you need to know about working with a legal recruiter.

1.     What is the Legal Recruiting Process?

Typically, the recruiting process begins when you and a recruiter have an initial conversation or meeting, during which the recruiter can learn about your background, experience, and career goals.  Without question, it is in your best interest to be as honest, detailed, and thorough as you can.  The better the information available to the recruiter, the better the recruiter can help you achieve those goals.

Assuming you have the qualifications to be placed at a major law firm or in-house position, the recruiter will compile a list of opportunities relevant to your background.  You can then discuss with your recruiter which opportunities you would like to pursue.  Also, the recruiter will want to see your resume, transcripts, writing sample, and other documents needed to apply to those opportunities.

The recruiter will submit – of course, with your prior consent – your credentials to those selected employers.  It is PLSG’s policy to secure your consent prior to submission to an employer. In that submission, the recruiter will highlight those facets of your background that meet the requirements of the position and demonstrate why the employer should bring you in for an interview.

If you are called in for an interview, then the recruiter will help you prepare.  The recruiter most likely has a relationship with the employer, so he or she can be a valuable asset for interview preparation.

If all goes well, including successful call-back interviews, the employer will want to make you an offer.  That leads to the final step in the process – negotiating the offer.  The recruiter will typically participate in the negotiations and, as before, serve as an invaluable guide and sounding board in the negotiation phase.

Working with a recruiter, along with a can-do attitude and a little persistence, will give you an advantage in getting to the next step in your career.

2.     How Does a Legal Recruiter Add Value to My Job Search?   

Here’s a phrase to remember:  a legal recruiter is not merely a job source, but a resource.  As you can see from the section above, the legal recruiter can be a helpful resource in reaching your career goals.

First, a legal recruiter is an industry expert.  Good recruiters devote a great deal of time cultivating relationships with firms and companies for the benefit of their candidates.  Thus, a good recruiter can find opportunities that you may not be able to find on your own, and will be able to open doors and get your resume in front of decision makers who are likely not available to you.

Second, a recruiter can be your greatest champion.  Recruiters can market your skills and competencies to potential employers, emphasizing your strongest assets.  Having another person advocate for you can be very persuasive to employers, particularly to employers who already have a working relationship with a recruiter and may rely on that recruiter to screen candidates.

Finally, and most importantly, the recruiter is a trusted advisor.  From lending a critical eye to your resume, to assisting with interview prep, to negotiating an offer, the recruiter is there to advise and assist you as you navigate through the steps of your job search.

In sum, having a recruiter on your side is a powerful asset.  Be sure to take advantage of all of the expertise your recruiter has to offer.

3.     How Does a Recruiter Get Paid?

A recruiter receives a “fee” from an employer when you accept a job offer that the recruiter secures for you.  Therefore, the benefit to you is that your recruiter’s success is aligned with your success.  The recruiter is doing his or her best to make sure that you fit the requirements the employer is seeking, and that you are introduced to the very best employers that meet your career objectives. Recruiters provide a benefit to employers as well.  Good recruiters present firms and companies with highly qualified, pre-screened candidates, saving employers significant resources in finding legal talent.

Accordingly, recruiters bring value to both sides of the job search equation, and you can rest assured that a good recruiter shares your interest in you landing that opportunity.

4.     What About Confidentiality?

Professional legal recruiters will protect your information and confidentiality and will not submit your information to any potential employer without your authorization.  You may want to clarify  under what circumstances your information will be shared with prospective employers.   You should be sure to ask a recruiter about keeping your information confidential before you begin working with him or her.  Your career is too important to allow a bad actor to compromise your job search, or your current employment.

5.     Maximizing Success in Working with Your Legal Recruiter

The best recruiter is one who takes the time to learn about his or her candidates, so that the recruiter can highlight important details that set you apart from the other applicants competing for the same position.  Thus, in order to maximize your success when working with a recruiter, be generous with professional and personal information about yourself.  As noted, the more detail a recruiter has about you, the better able he or she will be to market you effectively.

In addition, in a tight market, time is of the essence.  You increase your success rate substantially if you are timely in responding to information requests from your recruiter.  Acting quickly might make the difference between capitalizing on, or missing, an opportunity.

Finally, keep a positive outlook when working with your recruiter, and in your career search overall.  The process in making a career move may sometimes take longer than you expect, and can include some disappointments along the way.  By positively focusing on your ultimate objective, you may find the journey a more rewarding one.

To conclude, there are many facets to the relationship between you and your legal recruiter – too many to include in one article.  This article, however, provides a few fundamental pointers in laying the foundation for a mutually productive and beneficial relationship.   With these basics under your belt, I wish you the best of luck in working with a legal recruiter who can help you on your path to a successful, fulfilling career.

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