Origin Story: The Road to Becoming Legal Recruiters in Washington, D.C.

Legal recruiting was not where anyone on our D.C. In-House Counsel Recruiting team started their careers, but it is where they have found homes. Read each of their stories and discover how their paths turned and why they are passionate about their legal recruiting careers.

Deborah Ben-Canaan

I feel like I was born to do this job (although no one ever says that they want to be an executive recruiter when they are growing up). I was a marketing major (the most social of the business majors!) and an industrial psych minor at Penn State University. I was always fascinated by the workplace and what it takes to have a successful, happy organization. My focus in law school was on employment law and I assumed that I would come out of college to defend employees who had been wronged. That did not happen.

Instead, my law school loans kicked in, and for five years, I worked with two amazing law firms doing a variety of business litigation with incredible mentors. That said, my heart wasn’t in it. I loved the clients but something was missing. I wanted to combine my love of working with people, with my legal knowledge and my desire to help organizations be successful.

I started doing on-campus recruiting to dip my toe into the industry and realized that I loved it. I was recruited to join Major, Lindsey & Africa when I turned 30, and I helped open and grow the San Diego office. I have been with the firm for 20 years now, moving from San Diego to Washington, D.C., over nine years ago to help grow the D.C. In-House Counsel Recruiting Practice.

There is so much about this job I love. Day to day, I get to work with smart, driven people; that includes my clients, my candidates and my MLA colleagues. I have terrific clients. They are interested in issues like diversity and inclusion, top talent retention, and growth of their legal teams. They see the value in being strategic about their hires and in finding the best candidates, not just the best of who is looking.

I also love knowing that I am impacting lives by impacting careers.

I love the long-term trusted relationships I have formed – both professional and personal – with people I have been in this job with for what seems like forever! Internally, I like knowing the harder I work and the more I stretch, the more successful I can become. And, I love helping the next generation of MLA recruiters grow and develop.

Christie Babinski

I always thought I was going to be a lawyer. From a very young age, friends and family members supported my pursuit and thought it was a good path for a kid with a tendency to challenge the status quo (read: of the argumentative sort). I attended undergrad at the University of Florida and then moved to DC for law school. While in law school, I spent my 2L summer working as an associate at a boutique employee benefits law firm and joined the firm as an ERISA lawyer after passing the Bar. I worked with some of the best and brightest people and could not have asked for anything more when it came to my colleagues or clients. But that “sass” that made me fit to be in a court room at a young age was not really who I was anymore, and I knew I wanted to try something else.

Fast forward a little bit, as a recruiter, my advice to everyone – clients, candidates and friends alike – is always this: “pick up the phone and have a conversation.” As they say, there is a method to my madness! I randomly answered a call from one of MLA’s finest associate recruiters, Darin Morgan. Darin was calling to discuss an opportunity at another law firm, but ultimately recruited me to join MLA’s In-House Counsel Recruiting team. Like my colleagues, I had not considered legal recruiting before. But after consulting with my mentor at GW Law (who happened to be a former MLA recruiter) and meeting my now colleagues, who truly are the best in the business, I knew that MLA would be my home.

Now, almost four years in, I’ve never looked back on my decision to join MLA. I enjoy the legal aspects of the job while also tapping into broader HR issues and talent acquisition and helping companies grow their legal departments. I’m constantly learning new things and truly enjoy helping different types of people and making an impact.

Edina Beasley

My story begins in Croatia. I has enrolled in law school when I was 18/19—they have undergrad law school programs there. In my second year, my family was approved for immigrant visas, and we packed up and moved to the U.S. My plan was always to go to law school and I did just that in the U.S.

I graduated in 2009, which was a terrible time to graduate due to the tanking economy. So, I secured a clerkship for a year and then did some contract work. The boutique recruiting firm I contracted through then recruited me to be a recruiter and I was hooked. I worked there for five and a half years before I was recruited to join Major, Lindsey & Africa four years ago.

I absolutely love recruiting and recruiting for MLA. I work with the nicest group of people I could possibly work with; it’s a great team. I also get to meet the most impressive clients and candidates every day. Each day is new and I’m kept on my toes with different request and needs—it’s exciting and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Simon de Meo

I always knew I enjoyed helping people, and being that I’m naturally outgoing, I felt client-facing roles in my career was key. Earlier, I advised high net worth clients at a UK bank but wasn’t fulfilled. I wanted to help people in a more holistic way, so after talking to a friend working in the search industry, I joined a boutique search firm in 2008 specializing in defense and conflict zone asset protection sectors. Later, I joined a prominent UK search firm that advised boards and C-suites on their executive hires. It was there in 2012 that I was given the opportunity to grow an in-house legal practice group from the ground up after an initial group general counsel hire for a FTSE 100 business. I really enjoyed learning about the law and helping more and more in-house lawyers further their careers in better settings.

I later worked as a head of research before joining Major, Lindsey & Africa in the London office after being recommended to the firm by a friend. Four years later, I can genuinely say I love my job. I love the match making and the international mindset of MLA. The people are true to our core values, and we do change people’s lives. I have always been really impressed how international the business is and living on an island (Great Britain) that really mattered! For three and half years, I supported the EMEA team out of London placing in-house lawyers across Europe and the Middle East, learning a lot about all the different nuances across the region. My wife then was invited to work for a U.S. hospital, and in true MLA fashion, I seamlessly transferred to the excellent Washington, D.C., office in January 2021 and haven’t looked back.

Kimberly Hulsey

When people inquire about why I made the move to legal search I always want to say “because I’m a natural“ LOL. That’s not exactly true, but I will say that I do feel very comfortable and at home in many of the elements that make legal recruiting successful. I am genuinely curious about and excited to meet people of all walks and that certainly is a large part of what we do in this business. I also feel a strength and passion for helping people think through challenging decisions and life-altering opportunities. Again, something we do on a daily basis both for our candidates and for our clients. My activity in a number of community and other organizations has given me broad network and reach into legal communities of color—a third asset I thought I could bring to a search role. 

Logistically, I found my way to Major, Lindsey & Africa (who, by the way, placed me in my very last legal role—thank you Deb Ben-Canaan!) after a 20+-year legal career that spanned a clerkship, the federal government, a boutique law firm and three in-house roles.  When my company was acquired, my position was eliminated and like any good lawyer, I applied for a number of other senior-level legal positions and nothing “stuck”.  In contrast, every round of interviews and each conversation with MLA felt “right” and, dare I say, natural.

Two years later, I am still learning, I am still growing and I have never looked back at the practice of law.  A recruiter’s life is busy and the hours are often not contained in a neat 9 to 5.  But when you see the impact you can have on careers, on lives and on whole departments/companies, this job feels like not a job at all. It feels, incredibly satisfying, intensely gratifying and....well....natural.  

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