Law school is important if you want to be a lawyer. But how important is it to choose the right law school? Does it really matter if you went to Harvard? Or is any program acceptable as long as you worked hard and have something to show for it?
Business Insider asked top legal recruiters all over the country to weigh in. Their answers might surprise you.
A good legal recruiter can help you find the job you’ve always wanted. That said, candidates generally don’t understand what legal recruiters do, or how best to use them. To maximize this partnership and motivate them to be your advocate, here are 5 myths that need to be dispelled:
MYTH 1: A Recruiter's Job Is To Find Me a Job
FACT: Legal recruiters are paid by their employer clients—not their candidates. Their job is to find the best talent for the position the employer is seeking to fill. They have to keep in mind all of the employer’s requirements and deliver candidates that are an exact match. They aren't paid to help people transition to new practice areas, find jobs for those that have been unemployed for long periods of time, or practiced on their own as solo practitioners. Instead, they are seeking talented individuals who have done the job already in a different context, or candidates ready to move up to the next level in their same career path. Also, companies simply do not accept unsolicited resumes from recruiters. They hire them for specific jobs. So it is not within a legal recruiter’s capacity to present you to their current or former clients just based on your strength as a candidate; it simply does not work that way. While good recruiters dedicate extensive time and resources to working with candidates who are likely to meet their employer clients’ expectations, they are not an employment agency, career counselor, or coach for job seekers. Therefore, recognize their role and advantage of your legal recruiter’s knowledge regarding the search and hire process, and the legal marketplace.
MYTH 2: Recruiters Are Rude and Unresponsive
FACT: The truth is that most recruiters simply don't have the time to respond to the hundreds of unsolicited resumes and phones call they receive every week. It is also common for a recruiter to make over fifty calls each day, and with that kind of volume they simply don't have the time to deal with unplanned conversations. Legal recruiters, like anyone, have limited time and resources, and have to prioritize who is worth speaking with, and for how long. They are likely to be very responsive to clients or potential clients who have job orders for them to fill, and people who they see as strong candidates for those job orders. They are likely to be much less responsive to those who approach them out of a sense of desperation, with a career change in mind, or for whom they don’t have a job to submit them to.
MYTH 3: It’s Best to Work With Multiple Recruiters or Bypass Them Altogether
FACT: If you are seeking a law firm job, you need only one good recruiter to handle your search. Virtually all law firm searches are done on a “contingent” basis, meaning any reputable recruiter can submit a candidate to a prospective employer for consideration. Choosing one good recruiter ensures that you have access to all law firm openings. In contrast to a law firm search, if your goal is an in-house position, then you should engage multiple resources. However, while most in-house positions are filled on a “exclusive” basis, some in-house searches are conducted on a “contingent” basis, much like firm searches, meaning that the company accepts candidate submissions from a number of reputable recruiters. You should authorize your chosen recruiter to monitor such opportunities on your behalf. When you hear about a job from recruiters, and decide to bypass them by sending your resume directly to the employer, so you don’t come with a fee, think again. Chances are the recruiter and employer are working on an “exclusive” basis, so you’ll still have a fee attached to your candidacy, and you’ll likely have to be vetted by the same recruiter you tried to bypass. Rather than optimizing your goodwill and have the recruiter help put your best foot forward before an employer, you may have lost your only internal ally. The same can be said in a contingent situation; for the legal recruiter will have an incentive to make you stand out from the rest of the applicants. They will be able to discuss your candidacy directly with the employer, and potentially make the difference. On your own, you will not have anyone able to help you get a leg up on the competition.
MYTH 4: Recruiters Aren't Interested in Negotiating The Best Compensation Package
FACT: The majority of legal recruiters are paid recruiting fees that are a percentage of the new hire's first year base salary. The more you earn, the more they earn. Therefore, it is generally in their best interest that you obtain the best possible compensation package. Legal recruiters often they have inside information about what a company is willing to pay, and are able to negotiate a higher salary than what a candidate initially thought they could get. However, the opposite is often true. The company may have already discussed what they would be willing to pay for a top notch candidate, or made it clear that they are not willing to negotiate. In these cases, legal recruiters can do little but to advise candidates of the same, and not enter into negotiations that will not only produce no results, but also potentially damage the newly created relationship between the candidate and the employer. Companies do not take the recruiter's commission out of the new hire's compensation. Employers who have decided to hire a recruiter to assist them with the search understand that they must pay a premium for candidates sourced through recruiters, and are willing to do so.
MYTH 5: Recruiters Don't Care About Creating Long-Term Relationships
FACT: Legal recruiting is a relationship-building business. Successful recruiters know that their long-term success is based on building their network of relationships. Repeat business that comes from gaining multiple job orders from the same company is a key ingredient to any successful legal recruiting firm. The same can be said of candidates that were not a good fit for a current job, but went out of their way to introduce them to someone who was, or tried to provide them with job leads. These are the sort of candidates that a recruiter will remember and likely contact when they have a good job order to fill. Recruiters also have connections that can help candidates; and they are likely to offer them to those that showed a great deal of professionalism and respect of the process. One surefire way to get a recruiter's attention and build a long-term relationship with them is to offer to provide the names of people who are strong connectors to others, thought leaders, and high performers in their specialized field. Thinking of the relationship as “qui pro quo” can go a long way towards establishing a relationship that can be fruitful for both parties.
Not every candidate will find success working with a legal recruiter. However, if you are accomplished in your field and committed to staying in it, building relationships with legal recruiters who specialize in your skill set and industry can be your greatest asset in your job search.