Career Cushioning for Partners: The Case for Having a Meaningful Connection with a Recruiter


The term “job security” is often top of mind when one thoughtfully considers one’s career trajectory and the steps necessary for having a successful career. As a recruiter, I often speak with top talent in the legal profession and help those considered to be the best and brightest weigh the options of exploring the lateral partner market vs. staying put on their current platform. Some of my outreach calls typically go no farther than “I’m happy” or “I’m not looking.” These words are always good to hear, but I often leave the conversation wondering if the partner is truly happy and in a good space career wise.

While I understand that the elusive green grass promised in a cold call from a stranger is neither attractive nor appealing, I wish to share a few reasons why partners should be open to a friendly call from a skilled and ethical recruiter and take the opportunity to create a “cushion” for their career.

Cushion 1: The Opportunity to Gain Market Knowledge

Understanding the market and your place in the market is essential for a lucrative career. Successful partners are never afraid to have important conversations about their value in the market and make it a practice to know their worth. In turn, a skilled recruiter will be able to have a meaningful conversation about the market, market trends, compensation, and viable skills. I share the latter because I talk to many attorneys who are often flooded with calls and emails from recruiters, and they do not know who to respond to and who to ignore. When career cushioning, your time is best spent speaking to those who have a proven track record in recruiting at the partner level. This may perhaps be extra advice, but it can save you time if and when you do decide to explore the lateral market. Having access to market knowledge is a must for a partner at various stages of his/her career.

Cushion 2: The Opportunity to Network and Seek Advice

Networking is an ongoing process for professionals. Embracing the opportunity to network with a recruiter is a sure way to cushion your career. When you make a good impression with a recruiter, you are strengthening your professional brand. We all know that making the right impression can open the right door in the future. Also, speaking about your career and trajectory when there is no pressure allows you to think through what you want and if your career is fulfilling. Lastly, connecting with a recruiter allows you the chance to ask questions and seek career advice from a professional. Receiving sound advice and having a recruiter as a sounding board is helpful; it also helps you avoid career missteps and allows you to speak about your career confidentially.

Cushion 3: The Opportunity to Build a Rapport and Professional Relationship with a Career Advocate

Many times, when I speak to partners, they are under the impression that when a recruiter calls, he/she has a job to pitch to them. That is the case sometimes. Sometimes recruiters call partners when there is a specific/strategic need. Other times, skilled recruiters call with the sole purpose of introducing themselves and building a rapport. The right relationship—even one with a recruiter—takes time and is never instant. It is our job to know top talent and equip them with knowledge and advice. And as a partner, you can find comfort in knowing that a recruiter will know when to share the right opportunity, offering you a career cushion for the future.

Lastly, while partners often talk to other partner friends about opportunities, we often counsel partners that going the friend route to explore the market is not the smart way. Your friend may mean well and want to see you advance, but your friend may or may not be viewed positively internally (should you be wishing to lateral to a friend’s firm). And a recruiter, unlike a friend or acquaintance, will always advocate for you to be paid fairly.

Ultimately, job security can be as mythical as work-life balance, but if you are open to career cushioning by building a strategic relationship with a partner recruiter, then you can prepare for a positive and advantageous career.


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