8 of the Most Common Questions Attorneys Have About Legal Recruiters Answered | BCGSearch.com

8 of the Most Common Questions Attorneys Have About Legal Recruiters Answered


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BCG Attorney Search is a legal placement firm and not a legal recruiting firm. There is a huge difference. Read more about this here.

Legal recruiting is a niche business that caters to a relatively small subset of the legal community. Like any business, legal recruiting is constrained by the business realities of the marketplace. Smaller firms are often unwilling or unable to pay search fees. Firms that are open to paying search fees are generally looking for a specific demographic of candidates. What follows is an attempt to answer some of the more common questions we receive (sometimes on a daily basis). I have also included answers to some of the questions that we suspect lawyers don't ask but would like to ask.
8 of the Most Common Questions Attorneys Have About Legal Recruiters Answered

1. Why don't recruiters return my phone calls?


It is a mystery to me why any service provider would let a phone call go unanswered. After all, you never know when you are going to meet a potential client or a friend of a potential client. While I do not feel any compulsion to respond to a voicemail message left by a telemarketer, I always try to respond to inquiries (or ask a colleague to respond on my behalf).


Nonetheless, it is a fact of life for many professionals that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything. Sometimes when recruiters receive messages from candidates they know they cannot place, those messages go to the bottom of the priority list. To understand this, it is important to understand the economics of the legal recruiting industry.


2. How do recruiters get paid?


While good recruiters build close relationships with their candidates, recruiting fees are paid by the employer. When a legal employer hires a candidate that was first introduced by a recruiter, the search firm is entitled to a fee (generally 25% of the first-year salary). This fee is usually paid 30 days after the candidate begins working for the firm. Many search firms also guarantee a portion of their fee for a period of months.


Given the salary inflation that has occurred in the legal profession, these fees can get quite large. Employers are therefore not eager to pay search fees unless they are hiring a "stellar" candidate. In the eyes of the client firm, "stellar" generally means an associate with two to six years of experience at a major firm (which usually means strong academics) or a partner with substantial portable billings (i.e., in the hundreds of thousands).

Employers will occasionally ask a search firm to submit a more diverse mix of candidates. But this is only in the event that there is a particular shortage of experienced talent.

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3. Can you refer me to a recruiter who works with recent grads/associates who lack large firm experience?


I receive a lot of phone calls from recent law school graduates who are looking for their first legal jobs. I also receive a lot of phone calls from lawyers who lack strong academics and/or large law firm experience. Unfortunately, there is not much that search firms can do to help these two groups. Law firms do not use outside search firms to recruit entry-level talent. Similarly, law firms are generally unwilling to pay search firms for candidates that they can reach through conventional advertising.

If you lack large law firm experience (or experience at a boutique firm), you are probably better off spending your time conducting informational interviews. Find alumni of your law school who are willing to speak with you for a few minutes. Start showing up at bar association meetings for your practice area and make a point of talking to a few new people each time you show up. Ask college and law school classmates to introduce you to lawyers who have practices that interest you.

Searching the classifieds can be part of your strategy. (Signing up for a subscription to LawCrossing, BCG's sister company, is one way to make sure you have access to every job posting out there.) But making an aggressive effort to "meet" the market should be a large part of your strategy.

If you are unemployed and have the time, try to do work on a contract basis as a way of getting your foot in the door. Mention your availability to do contract work when you are out networking.

Try to avoid contract work which is unlikely to lead to permanent employment. Many of the assignments that you are likely to get through a temporary staffing agency are going to be large document review projects that require an army. It is unlikely that assignments like these will help you to build your skills or your contacts.


4. Which recruiters do in-house placement?


Most search firms do some in-house placement. BCG is unusual in focusing exclusively on law firm placement. When looking for a search firm that does in-house placement, understand that in-house search is very different from law firm search. Virtually all major law firms work with search firms from time to time. But only a subset of corporations will rely on a search firm to hire in-house counsel. More importantly, in the world of law firm search, most search firms have knowledge about the same listings. This is not the case with in-house search.

If you are pursuing other law firm opportunities, the real value of working with a recruiter is that you have someone who can help you sort through your options. In addition, a good recruiter can help you to uncover information that may be important in your decision-making process. A good recruiter can be your agent and help you to communicate effectively with a prospective employer regarding salary, benefits, and terms of employment. For this reason, it makes more sense to work with one recruiter if you are pursuing a lateral move to another firm.

If you are considering an in-house move, a recruiter may play some of the same advisory role. But since good in-house jobs are more difficult to identify, it is to your advantage to work with multiple recruiters. Each search firm may be aware of different opportunities.

Most importantly, if you are thinking about an in-house move, it is in your best interest to do a search which involves working with recruiters, keeping up with all the job boards, and networking aggressively.


5. How do I find a recruiter I can trust?


Finding a recruiter you can trust is similar to finding any service provider. Talk to your friends and see if they know a reputable recruiter in your area. Ask the career services office at your law school if they know anybody. If you identify some names, Google the individuals and see if you can find biographies. Have they written any articles on career-related issues? Is there information about them on a website which tells you more about their recruiting philosophy? Do they follow any ethical guidelines?


6. I have friends at many of the firms where I want to submit my resume. Should I still work with a recruiter?


There are some instances where it might make sense to approach a firm through a personal contact. If a partner at the firm has firsthand knowledge of your capabilities, then it may make sense to make a direct approach through that partner. On the other hand, if your contact only knows you in a social context (e.g., you are friendly with her son) or if the contact is simply a law school classmate who knows nothing about the quality of your work, then you may want to have a recruiter make the initial introduction and have your contact put in a good word for you only after the introduction has been made.


7. If recruiters charge large fees, wouldn't firms rather get a resume directly?


Most companies (law firms included) are not looking for excuses to incur large recruiting fees. On the other hand, trained lateral associates are so valuable to law firms (if they have the work and not enough bodies to do the work) that firms are happy to pay these fees. In the end, the firm will more than earn back the search fee in several months.


8. A recruiter sent my resume to over 30 firms without my permission. Can I resubmit my resume to some of these firms using another search firm?


Submitting a resume to a firm without the candidate's express permission is an unscrupulous practice. Any recruiter with integrity understands that getting your resume into the wrong hands could jeopardize your current position. Nonetheless, we do occasionally hear stories about recruiters who are only out to make a quick buck. Unfortunately, resumes do have a shelf life of at least six months. No law firm wants to risk being responsible for two search fees. So once your resume has been presented to the firm by any source, the law firm will not work with another search firm for at least this amount of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Do Legal Recruiters Make Per Placement?

In the legal recruiting world, the compensation system is extremely rewarding. Legal recruiters earn between 50-70% of the revenue they generate. In addition to paying the above-market rate, we have a tiered commission structure with an average of 60% that rewards recruiters who bring in more business. The average recruiter makes more money than a Biglaw associate and gets to maintain more of a personal life outside of the office. The best part is that you get paid to help people get jobs.

The high performers make what partners earn at Biglaw firms. Recruiters can make $350,000 from one deal for a partner with a $2 million compensation. On an average deal, recruiters will earn $1,583 per hour. Deals are not consistently closed and, much like a law practice, not every hour is billable (in this loose sense) - but the time spent fostering relationships and researching the local knowledge of the legal market is hardly monotonous or a waste of time.

How Do Recruiters Get Paid?

We have discussed how external recruiters are paid, so let's look at the different ways in which they get paid. These three methods are:

1. Contingency

Recruiters are not paid until their qualified candidates are placed. According to the above example, the recruiter does not receive their $14,000 until after the fact. Obviously, the recruiter competes with the client's HR department. The recruiters may also have to compete with other external recruiters who are trying to fill the position. Recruiters are not paid if their candidates are not ultimately selected by the organization.

That is what it means to work on contingency. The recruiter works in the hopes of placing a candidate and then getting paid.

2. Retainer

Recruiters are paid upfront, rather than afterward. So they get the money before they start working. In this case, they are not in competition with anyone. That means they are giving the search their full attention. The search is not contingent on anything else. The search is not dependent on anything else. Because they have it already!

3. Container

It is a hybrid of #1 and #2. Recruiters receive roughly half of their fees upfront before they begin the search. Once the candidate is hired, the remaining fee is collected. Clients "engage" the recruiter and have their attention by paying the first half of the fee.

A thousand dollars usually gets someone's attention - and keeps it. The fees for retained searches are also typically higher because the searches are at a higher level. That is one thing to keep in mind.

Recruiters are paid in a variety of ways based on a variety of factors. They are paid based on their preferences. Companies also pay recruitment firms according to how they like to deal with them. The type of search is another factor.

The types of businesses, preferences, and searches are countless. As a result, the recruiting industry as a whole enjoys a diverse payment system.

Do Recruiters Take A Cut Of Your Salary?

Recruiters do not take a cut from your salary. Recruiters receive a percentage of your first year's salary from the company they place you with if the employer and recruiting agency have a contingency agreement.

What Does A Legal Recruiter Do?

There are several reasons why law firms or other legal organizations should hire recruiting firms. Attorneys can focus on what they do best, which is practicing law. The recruiting firm focuses on finding the right candidate for the job, including conducting interviews and making an introduction between the two parties.

A recruitment team's main responsibility is finding legal professionals for open positions within the organization. They must implement a strategy that will attract the right people and screen the resumes that they receive. This process could take several weeks or even months depending on how many people apply for a job and what type of skill set is needed.

Another part of recruiting is interviewing potential candidates and testing their knowledge about law and procedures, in general, to see if they are qualified enough to work at the firm. The recruitment team will also contact everyone who is interested in the position and schedule interviews for the people they feel are qualified to meet with the hiring manager.

When the time comes to making legal recruiting offers, most recruiters write up contracts that show what the candidate will be paid and how many hours they will be expected to work each week. They also negotiate and explain work conditions and benefits to the potential employees.

Recruiters must have excellent communication skills because they deal with hiring managers, candidates, and other departments on a daily basis. They also need to be detail-oriented so that they can keep track of all the paperwork involved in recruiting as well as staying organized throughout the entire process.

The main responsibilities of a legal recruiter are to find new talent for an organization, interview candidates and talk about the company's culture, negotiate contracts on behalf of clients, and help clients connect with their desired candidates.

They must develop strategies that will attract the right people, screen resumes that come into the office (while also looking for red flags), and set up interviews for candidates. They must be great at communicating and connecting with other people and constantly stay organized.

How To Work With A Legal Recruiter?

In your legal job search, legal recruiters can be a great asset, but remember that they work for the hiring company, not for you. Recruiters can be divided into two types. Companies pay contingent recruiters only if the candidates they recommend are hired. Retained recruiters get paid whether the candidate is hired or not.

A number of excellent legal recruiters will go above and beyond to help you land a job. On the other hand, some recruiters exaggerate their placement records and do not have your best interests in mind. It is easy to recognize a good recruiter. They know a great deal about legal employers and practice areas. You will receive a prompt response to your calls and e-mails, and you will be treated with respect. You can ask them to review your résumé and cover letter and prepare for interviews, and they can give you honest advice as to whether the job is a good match for you or not. The best recruiters will even tell you if they do not think you need their services, and that you should pursue jobs through your college's career services center or through other means. You should find a recruiter who provides you with this level of service if yours is not. Contacting the National Association of Legal Search Consultants is one way to find a quality recruiter. A recruiter who is a member of this organization adheres to its code of ethics regarding relationships with candidates.

When working with recruiters, keep these points in mind:
  • Developing a good relationship with the recruiter is in your best interest. Be as honest as possible about your professional and educational background. Recruiters build their reputations on the quality of the candidates they present to their clients. A recruiter will look bad if you mislead him or her about your qualifications, which will reduce your chances of landing a job. Avoid being rude or pushy. If your attitude is bad (or if you lie about your qualifications), recruiters may spread the word to colleagues. Keep the lines of communication open with recruiters. If you decide to narrow or broaden your job search, let the recruiter know as soon as possible so you do not waste his or her time.
  • If you are told that you have not been selected for an interview by an employer, do not try to circumvent the recruiter. A recruiter has a vested interest in getting you a job (since then he or she gets paid). In situations like this, contacting the company directly makes you look desperate and shows that you do not understand how the hiring process works. Recruiters have long memories and will not forget what you do.
  • Work only with recruiters who have a history of placing legal workers. You most likely will not be able to land a job through a general recruiter who lacks the inside knowledge you need.
  • Send your resume only to companies you are interested in and only for positions you are seeking. The recruiter may send your résumé to companies you are not interested in or for a job you do not want. You may lose out on future job opportunities. Additionally, if your résumé becomes widely available on job sites, it may be harder to keep your job search a secret from your present employer.
  • Recruiters should not be paid. They may not have technical expertise in the legal industry or have inside information about job openings, and they are not recruiting agencies or recruiters. Instead, they are employment agency workers, career counselors, or executive marketing firms.
  • Using a recruiter when appropriate is important. Many recruiters do not work with recent law school graduates, instead of focusing their efforts on junior associates or senior partners. It is most important for recruiters to work with candidates who have attended top law schools, who have stellar academic records, and who have worked for top law firms or other employers for a long time. You may find a job by looking for positions on employment sites, legal publication job listings, networking, and other methods, or you may contact on-campus recruiters (from law firms and other organizations that employ lawyers).

What Will The Hours Look Like As A Legal Recruiter?

There is no doubt that law is an inflexible industry that has relented somewhat in recent years. Every minute of every day counts when rates easily reach double the minimum wage per minute. If you exceed the billable hour requirement, the firm will be more productive. For attorneys who need to take maternity leave or reduce their hours for a variety of reasons, most law firms can be unforgiving. Recruiters have a more flexible schedule. Can you take a break? No, but you will not be up at 4 a.m., Monday morning, writing a motion for summary judgment while testing the toxic potential of the new Redbull/Yerba Mate/Monster mixer you concocted to ward off 40 straight hours of mental exertion.

Mothers and fathers working from home or scheduling their work around their kids are able to maintain a family life while supporting their family.

What Is the Legal Recruiting Culture Like?

Despite the fact that not all recruiting firms are alike, inexperience is generally not met with disdain but with constructive advice. Many of the deals facilitated are split between two recruiters who take on the task together. Many recruiters work across regions given local knowledge and relationships. The point is to work as a team. The industry is set up to delegate work and bear expenses, not make a profit on individual deals. The fees are relatively low in comparison with lawyer billing rates.

How Do I Choose A Legal Recruiter?

If you have never worked with a recruiter before, it can be difficult to know where to begin. There is a good chance you will get numerous calls from different legal recruiters, but here are some tips to help you make an informed decision on how to choose a legal recruiter:
  1. Speak with a handful of different recruiters. You should explore all your options. Then you will be able to tell who seems to be the right fit for you based on your gut feeling. Do not spend too much time talking about yourself. Make sure the recruiter is attentive to your desires and goals, appears responsive, and is willing to enter into a true partnership. An excellent recruiter will be focused on your career, not just a specific position he or she wants to fill at that particular time.
  2. Verify the recruiter online. Verify that the recruiter's name and company are legitimate by doing a Google search. Over the years, several candidates have told me they have been contacted by legal recruiters they could not even find online. Cross-check the recruiter's LinkedIn page for further verification. You can often find recommendations from candidates who can speak about their own experiences and give you a sense of what the recruiter is like to work with.
  3. Consider a recruiter who is physically based in your target market. Recruiters build relationships. Through regular contact with the local law firms, they develop very strong local client relationships. Recruiters in local markets have access to jobs and opportunities that applicants in other markets will not have access to -- often unpublished. The recruiter may not be well-qualified to represent you as a candidate in a given market if he or she does not follow the local legal news closely. Local is always better when it comes to recruiters.
  4. Consult the recruiter about recent placements. A recruiter who understands your career goals can assist you in achieving them. You can confirm whether or not a recruiter works in that market or with a particular client by asking for recent placements. Seeing placements only in a certain practice area or with a few local firms is a sign that the fit is not right.
  5. Ask for references. Recruiters should be able to provide recent candidates who can validate their work. Get in touch to find out how responsive and proactive the recruiter is. Was the recruiter in regular contact with the candidate, or was communication mostly initiated by the candidate? The recruiter listen to the candidate's goals or did he/she simply submit the candidate for any open position? If you know the experiences of past candidates, you can set expectations for working with them.
Throughout your legal career, it is imperative that you have the support of an advisor who can guide you through your legal career. Establishing a partnership early on will help you ensure that you have that person on your side. Be diligent and make sure you are in good hands.

What You Should Never Tell A Recruiter?

Although the recruiter does not make the final hiring decisions, they do have a say over which candidates are presented to their clients and what kind of recommendations they make. No matter how friendly you get with your recruiter, it is important to remain professional and avoid saying these things:

1) I will take anything

It becomes tempting at this point in your job search to accept a job from anywhere! You should not share this information with your recruiter. Employers want candidates who are passionate about their work and have a clear idea of the direction they would like their careers to take, not someone who will do anything for the money.

2) It is only a short term arrangement

When you are out of a job, you may need a "bridge" job to keep you afloat until you find something more permanent; however, you should never disclose this information to a recruiter. Due to this trust, they are expected to supply their clients with candidates who are committed to the role, so even hinting at the fact that it is not your dream job may exclude you from the running.

3) My last company was just AWFUL

In a formal job interview (or you should not anyway!) you would not badmouth your previous employer, and you should not do so in a casual interview as well. There's a good chance they'll ask you why you left or what motivated you to look for a new job, but you should not use this as an opportunity to vent all your frustrations with the company. You won't look good.

4) I do not think I will take the job

So you are going through the motions for a new job; your recruiter sent your CV to the client, the client invited you to an interview, and the arrangements have been made. You know deep down that you will not be taking the job because you have other interviews lined up, you do not want to leave your current job and other reasons. Keeping your options open is understandable, but do not tell your recruiter that or all trust will probably be lost and they will feel all their hard work was for nothing.

5) I am just waiting for my counteroffer

What better way to remind your boss what they have than to threaten to leave? You should probably keep this to yourself if your recruiter is involved in a scheme to get a pay raise or promotion, rather than letting them know they are a pawn.

See the following articles for more information:


Learn the top 10 reasons to become a legal recruiter in this related article.

See What Other Candidates Are Saying: Testimonials and Reviews
BCG Attorney Search is looking for driven recruiters to join our team. BCG Attorney Search covers the entire United States, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. We offer first-rate training and coaching, pay top of market commissions, pay our recruiters as employees and not independent contractors, and offer medical insurance and other benefits. Additionally, BCG is the best known brand in the industry and is part of a 200+ employee legal employment company. We offer a supportive cooperative atmosphere and provide you with everything you need to be the most effective recruiter possible (continually updated internal job database, massive advertising support, incredible back office support, and many other perks designed to ensure you match every possible candidate with every available position).

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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