I recently received a cold call from a recruiter. Back in the day, when we were young and cocky Biglaw associates, we’d often just say “no thanks” and hang up on headhunters. For most of you, a call wondering if you’d like to explore a great opportunity in some department or other at another firm hasn’t occurred in years.
The economy just isn’t the same. For me, it’s been quite awhile since I received such a call. First of all, it’s fairly difficult to reach us; our numbers aren’t publicly available, thus making solicitations and cold calls something of an anomaly. Second, now that I’m in-house, the usual course is to seek out a recruiter, if necessary, rather than the other way around.
Well, my interest was piqued, and I chatted with her for about a half-hour. She works for a company with revenue much greater than I am used to, and a market cap well above my current employer’s. The job itself entails working on technology deals for a greater salary and overall compensation package. The company would also relocate me to a very palatable locale. Finally, the location is near many potential employers for my wife.
Seems like a great opportunity on its face. But, as one of my mentors has sagely stated, the devil you don’t know can be much worse than the devil you do know….
The rumor mill has been churning nonstop over the past week about Dewey & LeBoeuf. In our recentstories about the firm, we’ve discussed reports of financial difficulties, partner departures, and possible layoffs of lawyers and staff.
During this time, firm management has remained fairly tight-lipped. But earlier this evening — a Friday evening, of course — the firm broke its silence. Chairman Steven H. Davis sent out a firm-wide memo, acknowledging the rumors and confirming that yes, Dewey will be conducting some layoffs and engaging in other cost-cutting measures.
The lateral hiring market has improved substantially over the past year. With that improvement, associates are receiving a greater number of cold-calls from recruiters. For many junior associates, these calls are a new phenomenon. Your choice of a recruiter — and the way you manage the process — will have a profound impact on your short-term and long-term opportunities.
There are many good recruiters and many benefits to using a good one. However, not all recruiters are created equal. Jordan Abshire, legal recruiter and Managing Director at Lateral Link, offers some great pointers on handling the cold-calls and selecting a good recruiter, as well as some background information on the recruiting process….
There is a neighborhood in Chicago that smells like chocolate. The reason is due to Blommer Chocolate Company’s Chicago factory. I have never been inside, but according to a documentary I once saw regarding chocolate factories, inside there is a chocolate river, Oompa Loompas, and an eccentric chocolatier.
Much to my surprise, there was an opening at Blommer for over a year. Among other qualifications, the position required the applicant to be able to taste and consume chocolate and other products. Who would not jump at the chance to work there? Admittedly, there were a few negatives to the position (see here), but overall it sounded much better than a typical job wherein one does not get to taste and consume chocolate (at least not as an integral part of the daily routine).
If only there was some professional whose job it was to match open positions like this with qualified applicants….
Legal recruiters find work for lawyers — and sometimes they create work for them. We previously covered, for example, the litigation between mega-recruiter Major Lindsey & Africa and one of its former employees, Sharon Mahn.
Sometimes recruiters go after each other, and sometimes they go after law firms — firms that don’t pay them the placement fees to which they’re entitled. Recruiter Alan Miles, principal of Alan Miles and Associates, went after Bingham McCutchen — and won, big time.
I spoke on a panel with two other in-house lawyers at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law a little while ago, and I learned two interesting things about lateral mobility. I’m not one to keep secrets (other than client confidences, of course), so I figure I’ll share.
The first item came from a question a law student asked of Steve Beard, who’s the general counsel of Heidrick & Struggles, a recruiting firm. The student asked when the best times are during your legal career to make a lateral move. I didn’t have a clue, and Beard works for a headhunter, so I figured it was time to listen.
Beard said that headhunters will call you most aggressively at three times in your life. First, you’ll get calls when you’re roughly a third-year associate. At that point, the market perceives that you’ve been trained in the fundamentals of being a lawyer. If someone is looking for a competent person still early in a legal career, that’s more or less the time.
You’ll then apparently have to endure a few years of relative silence. The phone won’t start to ring regularly again until you’re six or seven years out of law school. The market will then perceive you as having become a fully formed lawyer, capable of performing most of the tasks in your niche. Corporations figure that they can hire a sixth-year associate, train the candidate about a particular business, and fit the person easily into a corporate structure….
Call it RICO not so suave. One of the nation’s biggest legal headhunting firms, Major, Lindsey & Africa, is withdrawing its RICO action against a former employee — after a federal judge offered a somewhat snarky assessment of the merits of MLA’s case.
As reported by Leigh Jones over at the National Law Journal, on Thursday attorneys for MLA submitted a notice of dismissal to Judge Colleen McMahon (S.D.N.Y.). The notice declared Major Lindsey’s intent to withdraw its claims against former Sharon Mahn, a former managing director at MLA, without prejudice, in order to bring such claims in arbitration and/or state court.
Perhaps MLA read the writing on the courtroom wall. The move to dismiss came after Judge McMahon ladled out some judicial sauce….
The world of legal recruiting is a bit like Glengarry Glen Ross. Like the real estate agents of Glengarry, legal recruiters work mainly on commission, and they get paid when they close deals. Instead of getting paid for selling parcels of land, though, headhunters get paid when they find lawyers — people like you — new employment (most often at law firms, although sometimes in-house as well).
Like Glengarry, the world of legal recruiting features outsized personalities, profanity-spouting hustlers, and smooth-talking salespeople (the folks who cold call you and try to lure you away from Big Firm A to Big Firm B). Given the sheer number of recruiters working today, the fierce competition for deals, and the fees at stake — moving a group of powerful partners from one firm to another can result in a six- or even seven-figure payday — it’s not surprising that the business has a seamy side.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this year, which has come to light thanks to some recent, non-sealed court filings, one of the biggest attorney search firms out there — Major, Lindsey & Africa — has made RICO claims against an ex-employee.
Wait a sec. RICO — as in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act? Some say legal recruiting can be a dirty business, but it’s not that dirty, is it?
(And are law firm associates going to start getting voice mails from Teamsters? “Hey there, uh, David, my name is Sal….”)
Let’s explore the allegations of MLA’s lawsuit against one its former recruiters, Sharon Mahn….
During this recession, there have been a lot of would-be Biglaw associates that have been forced into taking temporary contract work. People have to do what they can to pay the bills.
But in so doing, are they harming their chances of ever getting a full-time job? One recruiting firm thinks they are.
A tipster received a disheartening letter from a legal recruiter:
I submitted a resume to [You Suck] Atty Search nearly two months ago and received this response today. I have passed three bars and have prior firm experience but I am currently working in a contract position. This is the response I got – all I can think is that does this guy really understand what the job market is actually like and how many talented and smart attorneys are currently stuck in contract positions due to the changing market and economics?
Found it to be incredibly condescending.
After taking two months to respond, the recruiter essentially told this candidate that law firms are prejudiced against contract attorneys, notwithstanding the terrible economy…
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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