Last year, I placed a real estate attorney at a large firm that she was, at first, determined not to join. She had left a large firm several years earlier, and was relatively content at her small firm. The problem was, she was getting the same type of boring work from one client, over and over, and longed for greater diversity in her practice. She called me to discuss a position posting on BCG’s website that seemed perfect for what she wanted, but when I told her the name of the firm, she immediately said, “Oh no. I wouldn’t work there. They have a bad reputation.”
My candidate had her own biases against large firms, having been in one. She figured all large firms are the same. Additionally, it turns out she had a friend who had worked there several years earlier, in the same group, and had had a terrible experience. The friend told her that the firm was a sweatshop and she would be working constantly, which she was determined not to do.
I did not discourage her from pressing her friend for further information. However, I did convince that her friend’s opinion was not the only opinion, and that her experience there might be totally different. I encouraged her to at least speak with the firm and draw her own conclusions, and she agreed to go in for the interview.
In the end, the firm turned out to be a perfect fit for her, and she accepted a position, and has been very happy there. How did this happen? Several things brought it about.
First, the attorney was willing to listen to what the firm had to offer. She went into the interview with a relatively open mind and asked pointed questions which subtly raised her concerns. She listened instead of reciting a list of demands. When the initial interview was over, she told me that she had a lot to think about.
A few days later, she called and said she had decided to decline to go to next steps with the firm because she just couldn’t get past their reputation as a sweatshop. At this point, I decided to drill down and really figure out what her concerns were, and see if I could allay her fears in some way. She told me that she was concerned about working crazy hours, and she was also worried that they wouldn’t pay what she wanted (she had also been told that the firm was cheap). I had a good relationship with the firm, and had an idea how much they could probably pay her. I also knew from my dealings with them that they wanted her.
She agreed to let me speak with the firm and see what I could arrange. The first thing I did is ask if she could speak with some of the associates in the firm, confidentially, about their experiences there. She had coffee with several attorneys, and began to relax about the firm being a sweatshop, because that had not been the experience of these associates. In the end, we negotiated a salary that she found acceptable, as well as a relationship that laid out with some specificity what the firm would expect from her in terms of hours. She accepted an offer that was a large raise from her small firm salary, but with similar hours.
The moral of the story is this: don’t believe everything you hear about a firm’s or group’s bad reputation. Talk to them, hear what they have to say, and make your own judgments. The experience of someone you know may not turn out to be your experience at all. Maybe an awful partner has departed since your friend was there. Maybe your friend had her own issues that made the firm unhappy with her and colored her experience. You do not know what other people need and want in a firm, and you may not know what really happened.
Also, remember that if a firm wants you, they might make some concessions in order to get you. You never know what they are willing or able to do. This attorney, being senior, had a somewhat specialized skill set that the firm was having a hard time finding, and they were willing to create a special arrangement for her. Armed with this knowledge, she had the confidence (through me) to ask for, and get, the reassurance she wanted. Because she listened and kept an open mind, she ended up with a great job and a big raise in salary.
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.