I moved to New York City in the fall of 2008 as a young actor with the dream of getting on Broadway—but first, I needed to find an agent. Luckily for me, I soon accomplished that goal and after weeks of preparation, the day came for me to prove myself: my “interview day.” After performing five different songs, my agent sat me down, congratulated me and stated he would be signing me. He then looked me directly in the eyes and he said, "You aren't Brad Pitt, and that's OK."
Suffice it to say, that wasn't exactly what I was hoping to hear. Was he calling me unattractive? Was he telling me I was not talented? I wasn't entirely sure. But I soon realized that his comment was one of the most profound statements I would ever hear and I have carried it with me throughout my professional career. I went on to enjoy a very successful acting career not being Brad Pitt, but being myself.
Fast-forward a few years: I completed law school, worked at two prestigious international law firms, transitioned out of private practice and into my current recruiting role at Major, Lindsey & Africa. I still find those words of wisdom to be strikingly relevant and important.
If you are Brad Pitt (i.e., #1 at Harvard Law and currently at one of the top firms in the country), this article is not for you. For the vast majority of lawyers who do not fit that profile, the path toward a successful legal career can be very challenging.
What happens if our career path is not as clear-cut as it is for a Brad Pitt? It is a daunting task to discover which course is most effective for you. In my experience as an actor, an attorney and now as a legal recruiter, it is imperative that you find a teammate that can help establish an appropriate path to achieve your professional aspirations and guide you down it. Like an agent for an actor, a legal recruiter will help a young associate in three important ways:
- Hone Your Professional Self-Awareness: Much like a good agent, a good recruiter will help you gain a better sense of how you will appear to an employer. The first step to a successful legal career is to have a realistic sense of who you are as a lawyer. A good legal recruiter should know how your background (professionally and educationally) will play within the current legal market. Furthermore, your recruiter should help you work through exactly what you want in your next career move. In other words, a recruiter will help you establish what you have done and where you want to go. As a 21-year-old actor in New York City, I was not going to be Brad Pitt—but that didn't mean I could not be in the future (but really, I couldn't).
- Know and Understand You AND Your Market: Much like a good agent who maintains relationships with directors and producers, a good recruiter will not only spend time getting to know you but will also spend time getting to know the firms and the profiles of whom they want to fill their needs. A good recruiter should establish a good reputation with the key operators in their market. Knowing you alone is not enough.
- Craft an Action Plan: Much like my agent, my role as your legal recruiter is to tell you, "You aren't Brad Pitt now, but let's figure out how to get you there." You want a recruiter to tell you the things you may not want to hear. You want a recruiter who is not trying to sell you anything but is realistic about your goals and the legal market. At times, a good recruiter will be painfully honest and direct. They will submit you to opportunities that you are right for now and that will help you get to where you want to be—not opportunities that are out of your reach. A good recruiter will want to work together to find a path to help you achieve your own unique goals as an attorney.
Seek out assistance from a legal recruiter who truly wants to be your partner and teammate on your legal career journey. Talk to more than one recruiter. Interview them. You want to get to know them as much as they get to know you. Ask them questions about their background and their recruiting process. Challenge them as much as they challenge you. In doing these things, you will form a partnership, which requires two participants. Much like a good agent, you should only work with one recruiter, so spend the time to find the right one. In doing so, you will soon be well on your way to becoming a Brad Pitt.
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Andrew Glynn is a Director in Major, Lindsey & Africa's Boston office, where he focuses on placing lawyers of all levels at top-tier boutiques, regional, national, and international law firms.