A Legal Recruiter: Your Secret Weapon to Making a Lateral Move

Many associates believe that they can successfully undertake their job search on their own. While this is factually correct—everyone has the ability to hunt for a job and eventually find one—why would you want to venture into unfamiliar waters alone when you can have the guidance of an expert? A legal recruiter wears many hats for an associate looking to change firms. Their industry knowledge and connections can ease the stresses of job hunting so that you can focus on your current job while looking for a better one.

Your Agent

First and foremost, a legal recruiter is like your local real estate agent who is familiar with the local market. Similar to when you are buying a house, a recruiter represents their candidate’s best interests and is working for him or her—at no cost to the person looking for a new job. You are able to get guidance from someone who has market insight and knows the ins and outs of many firms (much like a realtor who knows the neighborhoods you are interested in). A recruiter is familiar with the personalities of many of the attorneys at the different firms and can use that information to guide you in your job search.

Also, as your agent, a recruiter can offer you confidentiality due to their contracts with the various law firms. This means that your resume will be sent in through formal channels and only the people that “need to know” see your resume. Overall, this formalized process decreases the chances of others finding out that you are looking into new opportunities.

Your “In”

Recruiters work with many of the firms in their market on a regular basis and have established relationships that are beneficial to both sides. Because of these relationships, firms will often turn to their trusted legal recruiters before listing a job. Sometimes they even offer a recruiter an exclusive search, which will never make its way to your favorite job site and could be an ideal fit for you and your skill set. If you have established a relationship with a recruiter, then chances are you will be at the top of your recruiter’s mind if an appropriate opportunity surfaces.

If a role is made publicly available, you will be one of hundreds or even thousands of candidates when submitting your resume through the firms’ various Web portals. With a recruiter, he or she will have direct access to the law firm and be able to present the strongest candidates he or she knows to the firm. Because of pre-established relationships, when recruiters follow up with the firms, they often receive a response much more quickly than candidates that submit resumes on their own. Firms value their relationships with recruiters and want to continue receiving strong candidates from the recruiters. Thus they tend to be more responsive to their key recruiters.

Your Editor

Recruiters see thousands of resumes, so they know how resumes should look and what should be stressed in a cover letter in order to get candidates’ resumes through the front door and into the right partner’s hands. A recruiter will help you craft your resume and cover letter to include the information that the firm’s recruiting coordinators are looking for in a candidate.

Your Coach and Counselor


Once you land an interview, your recruiter will prepare you before the big day. Experienced recruiters know the questions that tend to be asked and can guide you on how to answer them in a meaningful and beneficial way. They will also help you formulate questions to ask that will elicit the information you need in order to decide if a particular job is right for you. If you are candid with your recruiter, he or she can advise you on which firms may or may not be the right fit for you and your personal and professional needs.

Your Insider


Recruiters often have inside information about the various firms that they have gleaned from various sources, including current attorneys at those firms and prior placed candidates. They can utilize this knowledge to your benefit, especially when it comes to competing offers. Recruiters will know if there are difficult partners you should be mindful of, if there has been other recent hiring in a specific group or if a specific practice is more highly regarded than another. With this insight, a recruiter can give you enough information to make an informed decision.

Your Negotiator

When an offer comes, negotiating can feel challenging and confusing even for the most experienced job seeker. Successful recruiters have assisted with countless deals and can guide you through this process to ensure you are treated fairly and in accordance with the market. There are many nuances to consider, from signing bonuses and guaranteed year-end bonuses, to moving expenses and class year placement. For example, if you are moving markets, a lot of firms provide moving expenses, but only if you ask for them. If you are moving in the middle of a firm’s fiscal year, a recruiter can help negotiate your year-end bonus for the whole year instead of only part of it.  

Job hunting can often feel like a full-time job when you search on your own. With a recruiter’s help, you will have access to more information and opportunities than you can imagine. The best part is that someone is doing the legwork for you. A recruiter can help market you, advocate for you and get your resume pushed to the top of the pile. Make a connection with a recruiter you can trust early in your career, and he or she will be a valuable counselor and advocate for you at all stages of your legal career.

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Darin Morgan is the Managing Partner of our Philadelphia office and a Partner in our Washington, D.C., office, and is very active in both markets. He places both partners and associates into both large and boutique law firms. Darin is dedicated to helping his law firm clients find suitable partners and associates, with total responsiveness and integrity. He also draws on his experience as an NFL agent in representing candidates in the legal marketplace as they seek to find the right firm for their practice.

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