Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Michael Allen is Managing Principal at Lateral Link, focusing exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.
A legal recruiter is very similar to a partner at an Am Law 200 law firm in terms of compensation and day-to-day routine, but without the billable hour. Both get paid based on their book of business (i.e., eat what you kill) and maintain a stable of relationships that help them bring in business.
My colleagues and I started out as attorneys at Am Law 200 firms, including several who were partners, such as Larry Latourette (formerly Managing Partner of Preston Gates, D.C. office), Victoria Holstein-Childress (formerly a partner at Troutman Sanders), Ed Wisneski (formerly a partner at Patton Boggs), and Holly Moetell (formerly a partner at Shaw Pittman), just to name a few. Through nearly ten years of legal recruiting experience, I have found that recruiting is not only personally rewarding, but also very lucrative if you have a fire in your belly. Between the compensation, hours, collaborative atmosphere, and meaningful work, legal recruiting offers the same upside as partnership with a law firm but without the billable-hour requirement.
Here are my top five reasons for considering legal recruiting.
1. Entrepreneurial Practice: An eat-what-you-kill system is not for everyone and sounds daunting, but the upside is that you are rewarded for your performance. As an associate in Biglaw, it doesn’t matter if you go 15 rounds with Ivan Drago or two rounds, more or less you will get paid the same for hitting close to your hours. That’s a safe place for most attorneys. Countless times I hear attorneys say they want to go on the business side, I just hardly ever see them take the leap. In legal recruiting, you are not paid strictly for putting in the hours. You are paid for performance. The better you perform, the higher the ceiling. The point is, legal recruiting scales with effort; if you are a high performer, you can expect compensation comparable to a partner.
2. Flexibility: Law is undoubtedly a bit of an inflexible industry. With rates easily reaching double the minimum wage, per minute, every minute of every day counts. The more hours you work, the more productive you are for the firm.
The workplace can oftentimes be unforgiving for attorneys seeking maternity leave or reduced hours for other reasons. In recruiting, our schedules are much more flexible. Can you slack off? No, but you won’t be up at 4 a.m., Monday morning, writing a motion for summary judgment while testing the toxic potential of the new Redbull/Redline/Monster mixer you concocted to ward off 40 straight hours of mental exertion.
We have many working mothers and fathers who work from home or schedule their work around their kids so that they can maintain their home life while supporting their family. For full disclosure, I actually probably work more hours as a legal recruiter than I would at a law firm, but mostly because I don’t see work as work — I love what I do.
3. Compensation: The compensation system is extremely rewarding for legal recruiting. We pay our recruiters between 50-70% of the business they generate. At Lateral Link, we pay above the market rate, and our effective commission is tiered in an increasing structure with an average rate of 60% that benefits a recruiter who brings in more business. Our average recruiter makes more than the average Biglaw associate while getting the opportunity to maintain more of a personal life outside the office. The best part is that you get paid to help people with their careers.
At the higher level, our high performers make what partners earn at Biglaw firms. One deal for a partner with $2 million compensation alone can generate $350,000 for the recruiter’s personal commission. On an average deal our recruiters will earn around $1,583 for every hour spent on the deal. Of course, deals are not consistently consummated, and much like law practice, not every hour is billable (in this loose sense) — but the time spent on fostering relationships and researching the market is hardly dull or a waste of time.
4. Teamwork: Although not all recruiting firms are similarly situated and I can only speak for Lateral Link, in the recruiting world, inexperience is greeted with constructive help rather than disdain. We work together to help one another and many of the deals we facilitate are split between two recruiters who tackled the task together. For example, my colleague Scott Hodes and I are working on a few possible law firm combinations. Larry Latourette and I are working on several group moves. Two other colleagues, Don Delaney and Jean Howery, are working on an acquisition. Many of my colleagues work across regions given local knowledge and relationships. My point is that we work as a team. Our team even meets up every year from all four corners of the globe to enjoy a retreat together at a rotating location.
5. Creating Value: As recruiters, we not only find the best people for jobs, but we find the best firms for people (and vice versa). Even compared to the resident system for medical school, the practice of summer hiring can be chaotic and often leads to mismatches. As legal recruiters, we get to help correct the market. Oftentimes we bring an idea to both sides after recognizing value that neither side initially tasked us to bring to the table. For example, after taking a meeting with a firm chair and learning about firm strategy (as well as concerns), the best recruiters walk away, digest the information, and come back with ideas that the firm leaders didn’t see for themselves. We may even come back with a specific solution (i.e., group or partner candidate) to a problem they didn’t anticipate finding (i.e., succession planning or cross-sell opportunity).
It sounds pretty easy, right? Not really. Recruiting is not the easy money that it might sound like. You have to work hard every day to foster relationships and keep up with hundreds of people all the time. If you don’t like people, you won’t like recruiting. You also could go several months without a single placement and then have four in the span of one week (happened to my colleague recently). The good news is, our team is hiring. If you think you sound like a good fit for legal recruiting, feel free to send us your résumé at email@example.com.
Lateral Link is one of the top-rated international legal recruiting firms. With over 14 offices world-wide, Lateral Link specializes in placing attorneys at the most prestigious law firms in the world. Managed by former practicing attorneys from top law schools, Lateral Link has a tradition of hiring lawyers to execute the lateral leaps of practicing attorneys. Click ::here:: to find out more about us.