Understanding How A Legal Recruiter Works
Summer is ending and autumn is on the horizon. This is usually a time for transition for attorneys. This is the time of year where new law school graduates celebrate the end of the bar examination and enjoy their last summer before practice, and first and second year law students go through their on campus interviews. At the RMN agency, we are busy making sure our clients have their positions filled by the right candidates.
I’ve spent some time reflecting on some questions that I always get around this time of year to do some myth-busting about how legal recruiters work, and how new attorneys can position themselves to be in demand.
Isn’t it your job to find me a job?
Not exactly. While I certainly hope to get a candidate placed in a role where they will succeed, most of my job requires me to work with different legal employers. We have close relationships with different legal employers—from our own experiences, relationships, past practice, and extensive networking. Getting to know our clients means that we get to know their firm needs at a deeper level. Firms and companies on the look for legal talent are looking to hire for a very specific role, and need candidates that they know they can trust to succeed in a very specific context. Our job is to match the right talent with the position that the client needs to fill. So the better conversation to have with a legal recruiter is about your talents and how they might be utilized in different contexts. That way, the recruiter is able to properly place you.
Why are recruiters suddenly interested in me after I have a job?
I get this a lot from younger attorneys (“Where were you when I was in law school?”).
As mentioned, firms and companies are looking for specific matches, and it usually takes a couple of years for a fresh graduate to have the required skills and experiences to be ripe for recruiting. After the first few years, lawyers tend to have developed specialized skill sets and concentrations—and in some cases, start to recognize whether their current firms or companies will provide them with the adequate opportunities for advancement.
For law students who want to position themselves for the best possible careers, the best advice I have to share will be to focus on achieving academically. As you know, there are plenty of law students for law firms to pick from, and strong academic achievements will help open doors. Down the road, employers will have plenty of associates and practicing attorneys to choose from—many will even require certain rankings or academic achievements as well. So even if you strike out at OCI, don’t ignore your classes and grades.
After I’ve been practicing for a year, legal recruiters will line up to try to get me recruited right?
There’s a general misconception that recruiters automatically reach out to every attorney after their “first lawyer birthday.” While there are certainly candidates with skills that are in high demand from employers that will excite plenty of recruiters, recruiters are driven by the needs of the employers that they work with. Recruiters have to refer candidates that match the exact specifications of their clients. Whether recruiters will “line up” to work with you will depend heavily on how in demand your skills and talents are.
This is why I advise new attorneys (and law students!) to focus both on doing well in the early stages of their careers and to get connected with their target market. A quick google search will help provide some general information—from there, connect with alumni, colleagues, and bar associations to learn more about market and practice trends specific to a target location. Attend networking and social opportunities, and be able to talk about your market and your practice intelligently. This serves two interests: first, it will make you a better lawyer. The practice is relationship oriented, and a strong network creates a solid foundation for you to build your practice. Second, it will help you plan your career. Getting to know your market and practice needs will arm you with the right information so that your skills and experiences will be in demand.