Headhunters / Recruiters, In-House Counsel, Job Searches

House Rules: Finding Mary Poppins

Damn, Tony Scott! L.A. does weird things to a person. Each time I am there I am struck by a palpable sense of “difference.” It may well be the fact that I’ve been on the East Coast for so long, but I can’t shake the feel of Los Angeles. It is akin to being at Disneyland. The facades are constructed so realistically, but then you see Winnie the Pooh having a cigarette. Anyway, props to Mr. Scott for giving us some of the best films of my lifetime.

On to the task at hand. I was watching Mary Poppins the other day with my daughter. I swear that I only watch these things because my kids love them; really. As you know Jane and Michael Banks draft a list of qualities that they desire in a new nanny. Soon thereafter, Mary Poppins appears and straightens the entire household, kids and all, spit spot, er, I mean ship shape. And the Banks’ children’s list of got me to thinking about qualities to look for in a recruiter. So, I have compiled my own list of things to seek when considering a recruiter for your job search, if you have chosen to go that route. Some of you who are do it yourselfers can stop reading here. Those of you in the market for a recruiter, read on….

I had a wonderfully informative chat with a New York-based recruiter the other day. She had written in to my Gmail with a compliment (thanks!), and we made an appointment to speak. She focuses on placing laterals, as well as in-housers, back into firm life. Trust me when I say — not the route I am looking to follow. What was so refreshing was her candor and knowledge about the industry. So many recruiters seem to be in their jobs for the wrong reasons; I truly believe she is one of the good ones.

First, she is selective on who she takes on. Some major recruiting firms will take any just about any J.D. and then blast resumes around the internet. This method gives the recruiter a bad name, and especially harms the poor recruit who was simply looking for some help. It is important that the recruiter have some actual “ins” with those in a position to hire. The network can only be so extensive of course, but having that network is key.

Second, she will tell you straight up if you’re not for her, or conversely if she’s not for you. The environmental lawyer who did “okay” in a third tier school is really not going to interest anyone hiring for most in-house gigs. It is such a specialized niche the attorney has placed himself in, that a recruiter isn’t going to be in a position to do more than the candidate could do for himself. Further, because this recruiter specializes in finance, banking, law firms, etc., she’ll tell you if her network is not likely to help.

Third, she gives advice whether she takes you on as a client or not. I found it refreshing to speak with someone who obviously loves her job so much that she’ll take a half-hour to review your resume with you, even if you’ll not be added to her roster. It is so very important in these days of canned resumes and cover letters to find someone who can point out small details that could very well make a difference in the perception of your resume.

Fourth, she readily gives references. Most recruiters that I have encountered avoid this simple act. But, she is more than willing to share success stories, as well as those that may not have worked out for one reason or another. Not many in our profession will go the extra, and honest, step of admitting where they might have performed better in their jobs. But Keira Chassman does. At the end of the conversation you have an understanding that she has tailored the conversation to you; about you and where you’d like to go. Even if you ultimately decide to use another recruiter, or go it alone, spending some time on the phone with Keira will leave you with at least a few nuggets of wisdom that may give you an advantage in this difficult market.

No, this is not an advertisement for Chassman Associates, but it is an overview of what the best recruiters will do for you, and should be doing for you. Keira is the bomb. She may not be able to perform Mary Poppins-like “tricks”, but she can work some magic. And I can tell you from experience, and from the number of resumes that appear in our halls with any whisper of a job opening, that giving yourself any type of advantage, and having someone like Keira on your side, may indeed get you the face-to-face interview that you will undoubtedly ace.


After two federal clerkships and several years as a litigator in law firms, David Mowry is happily ensconced as an in-house lawyer at a major technology company. He specializes in commercial leasing transactions, only sometimes misses litigation, and never regrets leaving firm life. You can reach him by email at dmowry00@gmail.com.

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