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Career Center: Negative Selling – A Dangerous, Misleading Tactic

It is crunch time for 2Ls and 3Ls. You’re awash in information — some of it concrete — but much of it ambiguous, amorphous, and second-hand, at best. The dissonance of hearsay collides with the harmony of recruiting. This year, perhaps more than any in the past ten years, Lateral Link’s Frank Kimball, an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner, has heard stories of “negative” recruiting.

A lawyer with Jones and Brown disparages Johnson & Smith. While any professional recruiter worth his or her grain of salt would never condone such a tactic, several attorneys consider it an effective manner of recruiting. Word to the wise, if the best feature of the firm is the interviewer disparaging other firms, run away!

Negative recruiting takes many forms, but usually appears in one of the following forms….

A partner whispers negative sweet nothings about Mr. X, who left his firm for another, and says in words often less subtle than what follows: “No real loss (a snort here for effect), he was on his way out anyway — and by the way, all of his business stayed with us.”

A partner refers to the negative atmosphere or culture of the XYZ firm. Of course, he has never worked there, and his information is dated and impossible to prove.

A lawyer refers to “problems” over at Smith & Jones. He intones that these problems are “serious,” but of course cannot put any real beef on the bones, because there is not any beef to be applied.

A lawyer says “all of their litigators are unreasonable jerks.” The student who listens does not know that the aforementioned oracle had his head bashed in on a major case by the other firm earlier this year. He also does not know that their alleged insensitivity to requests for extensions of time might just be justifiable retaliation for comparable incivility.

Read more examples of negative recruiting, as well as how to maneuver through all that misinformation, by clicking here for the rest of the article. For additional career and OCI articles, as well as profiles of individual law firms, check out the Career Center.