As a third-year law student at Emory University, I have been well-positioned to witness the mess the great recession has made of the entry-level legal job market over the past few years. Luckily, I met Raj Nichani last semester and have had the opportunity to intern in his offices for the past five months.
The lateral market in law jobs has been less negatively affected by the recession than has the entry-level market, and has even accelerated in some practice areas since 2008. In an effort to do more with fewer attorneys while avoiding the substantial cost of training new lawyers, many firms have shifted scarce hiring resources to the pursuit of experienced attorneys from competing firms. That’s where legal recruiters like Raj come in.
Recruiters help firms find the lawyers they need and help lawyers find the firms best suited to their personal, professional, and lifestyle ambitions. In other industries, people who do what Raj does refer to themselves as headhunters. In law, however, they are called recruiters, and I think the distinction is telling.
Recruiters are tasked with probing the personalities and interests of the candidates with whom they work. They also must understand the business and culture of the firms to and from which they recruit candidates. Lawyers are smart people. Their time is valuable and they know it. For recruiters to succeed, they must bring real value to candidates and firms alike. Most commonly, that value manifests in the form of industry knowledge and personal insight. However, experienced recruiters can also be useful as career counselors, helping lawyers make emotional sense of seemingly overwhelming career choices.