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Alternative Legal Career: Is Legal Recruiting Right For You?

By Ed de Castro

As an internal recruiter working in the legal recruiting industry for more than 10 years, my conversations with candidates often begin with the subject of hitting the proverbial career crossroad. For some, this could happen in a year or two. For others, it may take many years to get to that point. When you do reach it, often a question one asks himself or herself is, “What other opportunities are available for someone with my background and skill set?” For myself and others, the answer was life as a legal recruiter. While it is true most of us in this industry are former lawyers or JDs who were interested in a career change, to say this industry is a perfect career transition for everyone would be misleading. However, for those who have found legal recruiting to be the right fit, few careers are more rewarding—both personally and professionally.

I could point to any one of our successful legal recruiters in our firm and I am confident they couldn’t imagine doing anything other than what they are doing now. But how did they come to the decision being a recruiter was right for them? In this article, my hope is to help you answer this question—with specific questions focused on you. Answering these questions will help guide you to a better understanding of what legal recruiting is all about and whether it makes sense to chart a career path in that very direction.

Questions to Ask Yourself

·        How adverse are you to change? How do you handle uncertainty?

The biggest hurdle for most lawyers considering a transition into legal recruiting is the uncertainty that lies ahead in a mostly commission job. There is both a financial and mental hurdle to overcome. If having a stable income stream is essential for your lifestyle, then recruiting may not be the right career for you. This industry is analogous to sales in the ebb and flow of how/when/if deals close. One needs to accept the fact that although there is a way to average out your annual compensation over a 5-year period, there is still a ramp-up time of 6 months to a year on the front end. In addition, many former lawyers have yet to accept the fact mentally that they are no longer practicing law. Thoughts of regret and “what have I done” can fester during the initial months after you start, but in time, these feelings dissipate because recruiting requires constant and consistent activity. In reality, change and uncertainty are what make recruiting so exciting. Truly every day is different, offering a new set of challenges from either the candidate or client side. If you enjoy a new challenge each day versus a predictable or static environment, then recruiting is worth some further exploration.

·        What did you enjoy more: the consultative or analytical side of the law?

Being a lawyer is often a good fit for introverts. There is a lot of research and writing. Many lawyers simply enjoy the analytical side of legal practice. Others enjoy the consultative side/approach of legal practice. They get excited and enjoy communicating or conveying their ideas and advice to others. If the latter applies to you, then recruiting is the career to consider. It is very much a people business and extroverts certainly do excel in this type of industry.

·        Are you entrepreneurial? What is a good example of this in your current or past experience?

Major, Lindsey & Africa has legal recruiters located within every major U.S. market and a number of international markets. Despite our size, each recruiter has their own way of running their business within their respective territory. Many times recruiters come up with creative ideas or solutions to connect with more candidates. They also think out of the box to increase their own personal brand recognition in their market, including writing articles focused on career change or the legal market and doing podcasts on relevant recruiting topics. Being entrepreneurial in this business generally equates to better results and, ultimately, greater rewards in this industry. If you have examples that parallel an entrepreneurial spirit, then recruiting is certainly a career worth looking into.

·       Do you consider IQ or EQ more important to you?

Assessing intelligence is certainly an important factor in any company hire. Perhaps being surrounded by lawyers or doctorate-level candidates presumes most of us have reached the IQ threshold necessary to understand this business—as we often say, it isn’t rocket science. However, identifying someone with a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) is more difficult to spot but more indicative of what we look for in determining success in this industry. Ask yourself, can I adapt to working with many different types of people? Can I empathize with someone I do not know very well? Am I a good listener? Answering yes to these questions translates very well to success in our business. We are in the happiness business for lawyers. To make them happy, we need to build a level of trust, empathy and understanding of their situation in order to help guide them to a better career platform. If all this sounds rewarding or exciting to you, then recruiting is a career you should consider.

·        Finally, what is your financial situation?

This last question is the toughest topic to cover from an internal recruiting standpoint because it requires you to take a financial leap of faith. Most candidates have earned a stable income from their previous or current employer and we are asking them to transition into what is a mostly commission job. Not an easy feat for anyone, much less risk adverse lawyers. I understand there is no simple answer to this question because everyone’s financial situation is different. To get to an answer, ask yourself whether you view legal recruiting as a job or as a career. If you view legal recruiting as a job, then it will not provide the immediate financial stability from where you came from or currently are. Our successful legal recruiters have, from day one, viewed legal recruiting as a long-term career. They understand there is a financial ramp up process in play, but the long-term financial and emotional benefits far outweigh the short-term sting. Our successful legal recruiters here at Major, Lindsey & Africa are making more money than they ever did practicing law, including those from BigLaw. They have a better quality of life and a more rewarding career. If your finances can handle the short-term ramp up in recruiting thanks to savings you have accumulated, a working spouse or simply a willingness to live more frugal in the short term, consider having a conversation with us—we’d love to learn more about you.

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