How Certain Law Firms Routinely Win the Most Sought after Candidates |

How Certain Law Firms Routinely Win the Most Sought after Candidates


Print/Download PDF

Font Size

Rate this article

37 Reviews Average: 4.9 out of 5

There is a select group of candidates that everybody wants, and you know the type we are talking about. Excellent credentials, highly desired practice group, and a great personality to boot. The age-old question for law firms: How do we most effectively recruit these top candidates?
How certain law firms routinely win the most sought-after candidates

While factors such as salary and prestige certainly play a big part in recruiting these top candidates, there are many other factors that are also crucially important in the process. As legal search consultants, we see certain firms that seem to routinely win these types of top candidates, oftentimes over firms that pay higher salaries and are widely considered more prestigious. This article discusses some strategies that the most effective recruiting departments employ to get the most sought-after candidates.

1. Educate the Partners on the Current Hiring Market and the Importance of Not Sitting on Good Candidates For Too Long

You would be surprised at how many law firms lose good candidates because the partners/decision makers sit on excellent candidates for too long before deciding to bring them in for an interview. While recruiting departments are well aware that the lateral hiring market has picked up considerably, the partners often don't fully appreciate that the hiring market is no longer in the doldrums like it was in 2002.

As a recruiting professional, take it upon yourself to affirmatively educate the partners on the importance of not sitting on good candidates. For example, make it a practice to routinely forward partners/decision makers articles, statistics, and other studies about the state of the lateral hiring market. By doing this, the partners will likely think twice before putting a well-qualified candidate in the "to do" pile of papers, instead of giving the green light for an interview.

2. Provide Search Consultants with "Selling Points" that Make Your Firm Unique

This is perhaps the most important point of this article. The best candidates are getting called, on average, up to several times a day by various search consultants. Also, the best candidates are likely already in a very prestigious firm with a strong practice area. Thus, if you are going to use a search consultant to assist with your search, it is crucial to provide unique selling points regarding your opportunities. For example, what makes the group unique and different from competitors? Why would a well-qualified candidate be interested in "playing for your team?" Are there any interesting personalities in the group? Do the attorneys in the group have a particularly close working relationship? You would be amazed how often things like regular happy-hours or a practice group leader's excellent sense of humor will make an otherwise uninterested candidate listen more closely to an opportunity.

Lastly, even if a potential candidate is not interested in the opportunity, the firm will have gained free advertising for what makes the practice group unique. This, in turn, will lead to excellent word-of-mouth advertising about the practice group.

3. Don't Forget the Importance of Pre-Interview Recruiting

The first impression starts before the first interview. The most sought-after candidates take note of things such as:
  • a. How long did it take for the firm to invite the candidate in for an interview?
  • b. Did the firm give me the names of the interviewers, and leave the candidate enough time to research the interviewers?

We certainly understand how difficult it can be for recruiting departments to get feedback from partners regarding candidates to interview (as well as the difficulty in lining up interviewers before the "last minute"), but those firms that have managed to streamline this process and move it along more quickly have a distinct advantage.

We have seen firms go as far as providing candidates with a "pre-interview welcome kit" before the interview, which has general information on the firm, as well as a personalized letter to the candidate. While this is certainly not necessary, it is very impressive on several levels because it sends the message that (1) the firm is very organized; (2) the firm takes its recruiting seriously; and (3) the firm has class. A small touch like this can set a nice tone from the very beginning, which oftentimes has a subtle but significant effect on the emotional aspect of the process, which is absolutely crucial.

4. Are Your Attorneys Skilled Interviewers and Adequately Prepared With All the Relevant Materials?

Interviews are not only the candidates' time to shine, but the law firms' as well. As much as a candidate should be prepared to ask and answer appropriate questions and make the best presentation possible, so should the interviewers. However, most attorneys are not very skilled at interviewing because it is not an innate skill. Plus, attorneys are often hesitant to really get into the nitty-gritty about important details for fear of turning off a potential candidate. A number of firms have invested in having formal interview training programs for their attorneys, which can yield excellent and improved results on numerous levels.

Importantly, in order to make the best use of time during the interview and to arm the attorneys with all the background information, a good rule of thumb is to forward the interviewers all the information provided to you by the search consultant (unless explicitly told otherwise). While some search consultants merely provide a resume, transcript, and one-line email saying "looking for other opportunities," others take more time to provide detailed cover letters and deal sheets to provide you with all the necessary and relevant background information that answers all the questions that are not answerable from the resume itself. This information is extremely important because if there is a resume that has a few questions (e.g., gaps in working, short period at a certain firm, not currently working, etc.), these supplemental materials can explain, rebut, and correct false assumptions that are routinely made during a quick and cursory review of a resume. There have been numerous situations where attorneys were quite upset to learn that they did not receive the full submission package and therefore made an incorrect assumption about an otherwise very qualified candidate.

5. Post-Interview Recruiting: Don't Unnecessarily Cause "Post-First-Date Concern" for Those Candidates You Want to Keep Warm

Many firms have lost exceptional candidates by dragging out the process and keeping the search consultant/candidate out of the loop. Even if there is nothing to report, still provide an update to the recruiter (e.g., this is still in the hands of partner, we are interviewing a few more people, etc.). Candidates just want to know that they have not been forgotten, even if there is nothing new to report.

We have seen many exceptional candidates talk themselves out of a particular firm that waited too long, even though the firm had the best of intentions and was very interested. For example, if you went on a first date and did not get a call from the person, would you continue to be interested in that person, or would you begin to convince yourself that "the person is not right for me anyways." For those candidates that you want to "keep warm," a simple update from the firm on the status will go a long way in keeping the candidate interested, even if there is nothing to report. This way, we can tell the candidate that we heard back from the firm and they are still under consideration, etc. It is always helpful when a law firm calls us and says, "Nothing to report, but please keep this candidate warm--we really liked him/her."


Employing these strategies will take a little more time up front, but you can be guaranteed that you will reap significant rewards in your recruiting efforts. Trust us--we've seen it happen countless times first-hand.
Interested in Learning More About Legal Hiring? Read the Definitive Guide:

How to Hire a Legal Recruiter for Your Law Firm: How Law Firms Recruit Attorneys Using Legal Recruiters

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,, and, 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

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.

AGREE/DISAGREE? SHARE COMMENTS ANONYMOUSLY! We Want to Hear Your Thoughts! Tell Us What You Think!!

Related Articles

We've changed thousands of lives over the past 20 years, and yours could be next.

When you use BCG Attorney Search you will get an unfair advantage because you will use the best legal placement company in the world for finding permanent law firm positions.