Biglaw, Headhunters / Recruiters, Job Searches

Greetings From Anonymous Recruitment Director

Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Anonymous Recruitment Director, who will offer an insider’s perspective on the world of law firm hiring.

As a recruitment professional who has worked in large law firms for 20 years, I am delighted to be writing for Above The Law. I have decided to write anonymously because, otherwise, I would need to have my current employer approve the content of each column and, let’s face it, you want the dirt. Well, I have plenty of dirt to share. But, above all, my motivation for writing this column is to be of assistance to job seekers. Attorneys, as a group, are awful at taking advice. It is my hope that a few of you may appreciate that you can learn from someone who is included in the process of hiring new attorneys at a leading international firm.

As to my background, I am based in New York City, and I “run” the recruitment department of one of the largest law firms in the world. According to my job title, I oversee all aspects of the hiring chain, including lateral partner recruitment, lateral associate recruitment, summer associate recruitment, and LLM recruitment. In practice, most of my time is spent on the identification and recruitment of new junior attorneys. I have many lessons that I wish to share with these job seekers….

I have worked in law firm recruitment during the good years when the hiring committee did not pay attention to grades. I have worked in law firm recruitment during the bad years when the committee hired no one and spent its time discussing how to incentivize attorneys to leave the firm. I do not hold a great deal of power at the firm (it is easier for me to get a candidate passed over than hired); however, I have been in the room for years and years as these decisions have been made. I hope in this column to take some mystery out of the process.

Please note that the lessons that I will share were not necessarily learned at my current firm (I have worked at three Biglaw firms over the years, and I have learned a great deal from my close relationships with the individuals who act as recruitment professionals at other leading firms). I share with you here my own thoughts and not the views of anyone else at my current firm.

In the coming months, I will address the many different aspects of the hiring process. I will address dull matters, such as cover letters and résumés, which often get applicants in trouble. I will address the decision process and what gets the committee interested in one particular candidate over another. I will address the interview day itself, and I will share the many things that help candidates seal the deal. I will introduce you to your competition. In addition, I will share with you the many absurdities that occur during the process, in the hope that you will have a full understanding that you are dealing at each stage with human beings, who are fickle, overworked, and far less invested in the outcome of the process than you are. Oh yes, here is insider tip number one: you are not special.

On any given day, our department receives between 30 to 50 résumés. On a good day, I will rescue one application from the pile. The invention of email has been a nightmare for recruitment professionals because applicants are able to apply for jobs quickly and without any regard to the qualifications needed to land a given job. As a result, we are flooded with résumés from candidates who will never be advanced in the process. In the pile, somewhere, is an email from a candidate who is of interest to us. I will address how you can help us find you in this ever-growing pile.

I am sorry that I said that you are not special. I am sure that you are lovely. However, recruitment is a machine that has no scientific foundation. Partners love to believe that they have a well-refined sense of who will make a good hire. But, in truth, partners just like to be liked. They like people who unabashedly want what they have themselves have chosen. Aside from this, there is no real formula. As a result, you need to be aware of what tends to impress and what tends to be off-putting to partners and the recruitment staff. Then you need accept the fact that chance plays a larger role in the process than anyone cares to admit.

Do not be discouraged by this statement. In reality, it is good news. This means that you need not take anything in the process too personally. Job seeking is a skill that can be developed. I hope to be of assistance as you refine this skill.

Anonymous Recruitment Director is the head of recruitment for a leading international firm and has 20 years of law firm recruitment experience. Anonymous NYC Recruitment Director can be reached at (please note that job applications sent to this email address will be deleted!).

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