What Legal Recruiters Look for in Candidates
Do you remember what your first encounter with a legal recruiter was like?
Did you hear a recruiter speak during a law school career panel? Maybe you had a drink at a bar association networking event? Or were you the recipient of a “blast” message on LinkedIn or cold email?
Outside of those chance encounters, at some point in your legal career, you will connect with a legal recruiter. When you do, you will fall into one of two categories:
The first category is when multiple recruiters are interested in you. In hopes that you will leave your current job, they follow up with you after meeting you at an event (or reach out to you personally) to present you with opportunities from their client.
It’s a wonderful feeling to be wanted and in demand by employers.
The second category is when you are the one contacting recruiters asking about job opportunities. You have brief conversations, and maybe get passed around a bit. If you are lucky, you might get some feedback about your candidacy and the steps you should take to be a more attractive candidate.
Whether a legal recruiter is right for you depends on which category you fall under. It goes without saying that it is better to be in the first category. Here are some considerations and tips as a lawyer to be in demand by legal recruiters when they call:
Do you have a proven track record as an attorney?
If so, using a legal recruiter to help with a lateral move or new job might be a smart move. this means that new lawyers just out of law school that have not practiced for at least two years are not particularly attractive to recruiters. An important fact to keep in mind is that there are more lawyers looking for work than there are good jobs to go around. Employers can pick and choose, which means that recruiters want to work with applicants who are highly marketable. This requires a solid track record that entry level attorneys have not yet developed.
Do you play nice with other lawyers?
The legal profession is a game of relationships. Forging deep, lasting connections with your colleagues and clients is key to succeeding. This is why it is important to play nice. Note that being “nice” does not mean you should not be assertive. Make sure you work well with other people. Seek feedback, and apologize where necessary. Learn to genuinely care for others and to help solve their problems, which forms the foundation of trust for successful business relationships.
Remember that your reputation is what you take to the bank as a lawyer. It takes a lot of effort to build, and very little effort to ruin. Reputations are also like a mirror: you can fix it if it’s broken (but you will always see the cracks in that reflection).
Are you a brilliant jerk?
Think about how you work with your teams. Do people think of you as disruptive? Do you have a positive influence on the firm? Even if your colleagues say that you are one of the top performers at the firm, they might also say that you are a jerk. You can be “highly capable and productive” and “a difficult prima donna” in the same breath. No one wants to work with a lawyer who has a poor reputation.
Putting it all together:
When you are just starting out, make sure you are producing quality work and building a positive body of work as an attorney. Work well with others and mind how your overall attitude in the legal profession. Pay attention to how you are perceived in the industry. Your professionalism needs to be at the highest standards at the firm, in the courtroom, and when you are out socially.
After at least two years of paying your dues, you will be in demand. Once legal recruiters call, you will be able to leverage opportunities to make the most out of the “sweet spot” of your legal career.