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5 Steps to Choosing the Right Legal Recruiter

Establishing a relationship with a trusted recruiter early in your legal career is critical for long-term success, no matter what your career goals are. This isn’t because you are intending to make a lateral move anytime soon, if ever, but because circumstances change. Lawyers change jobs for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional, including to cut back on hours because of young children, to move cities because of a spouse or partner’s job, to help care for elderly parents, to improve partnership-track considerations, to increase compensation, to get ahead of or react to market/economic conditions or sometimes to simply change scenery. None of these are planned well in advance; as we all know, life happens.

If you’ve never worked with a recruiter before, it is difficult to know where to start. Chances are you will get many calls from many different legal recruiters, but here are some pointers to help you make an informed decision:

  1. Speak with a handful of different recruiters. It’s important to explore your options. Once you have, your gut will tell you who seems to be the right fit for you. Avoid recruiters who talk about themselves the entire time. Make sure the recruiter is listening to your desires and goals, seems responsive and shows a willingness to enter into a true partnership. The right recruiter will be focused on your career, not just a specific opportunity he or she wants to fill at that particular time.
  2. Verify the recruiter online. Google the recruiter’s name and company and make sure everything seems legitimate. Numerous candidates over the years have told me they have been contacted by legal recruiters they can’t even find online. Also, cross-check the recruiter’s LinkedIn page for further verification. Often there are recommendations there from candidates who will speak to their specific experiences and can give you a sense of what the recruiter is like to work with.
  3. Choose a recruiter who is physically located in your particular market of interest. Recruiters are in the relationship business. They develop very strong local client relationships by attending face-to-face meetings and staying in regular communication with the local law firms. Local recruiters will receive information about potential opportunities or positions from local firms—often unpublished—that those in other markets are simply not going to have access to. If a recruiter doesn’t closely follow the local legal news, then he or she is not well-equipped to represent you as a candidate in that particular market. With recruiters, the rule of thumb is local is always better.
  4. Ask the recruiter about his/her recent placements. You want to work with a recruiter who understands your career goals and can help you reach them. Asking for recent placements will help you to confirm whether or not that particular recruiter truly does work in that market or with particular clients of interest. If you are only seeing placements in a certain practice area, or with only a couple local firms, you should question the fit.
  5. Ask for references. The recruiter should be able to provide recent candidates who can validate his/her work. You want to reach out to find out firsthand how responsive and proactive the recruiter is. Did the recruiter follow up regularly with the candidate or was communication mostly initiated by the candidate? Did the recruiter listen to the candidate about goals or did he/she simply submit the candidate for any open job? Knowing the experiences of past candidates will only help you set expectations for working with that person.

As you progress in your legal career, it is imperative to have the support of a trusted advisor who can help you navigate the many twists and turns. Forming a true partnership early on will help ensure that you have that person in your corner. Do your due diligence and ensure you are in the right hands.

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