It depends on who the connection is.
Who is the person you want to use as a connection within the firm to which you are applying? Is the person an attorney who is in the group to which you are applying? Is she a partner in that group? An associate? The position of the person will help determine when to use that connection.
If the connection is a partner who may influence whether you get interview and/or hired, you may want to contact that person shortly after your resume has been sent to the firm by your recruiter. Often, recruiting coordinators (who are sometimes non-lawyers) serve as gatekeepers within a law firm, and determine whether your resume gets seen at all by the relevant attorneys. Therefore, it may be in your interest to let that person know soon after your resume has been sent that it has been submitted. That way, you increase your chances of the resume being sent on to the group by the recruiting coordinator. Even if the connection is a partner in another group, who may not be someone who has any say in whether you get an interview or an offer, it may not hurt to let that person know your resume has been sent. She probably knows a partner in the group who has the power to make sure it is seen.
Even an associate can help your cause from the outset, but the key factor is making sure that the associate is well-regarded by the firm. Unlike partners, being an associate does not guarantee that the person is doing well. Partners have been invited to join an elite and private club in a very real way; associates are still proving themselves with the hope of being invited, so you really never know whether a recommendation from an associate will be a help to you or not. As a general rule of thumb, if the associate is fairly senior, or has been with the firm more than 3-4 years, she is probably doing pretty well there, and you have a reasonable chance of a connection helping, rather than hurting you. This is especially true if she is in the group to which you are applying. If she is in another group, there is a smaller chance that she will have a relationship to the partners who will make decisions with regard to your candidacy, but you can always ask. The last thing you want to do is attach yourself to an associate who is on the way out the door.
It depends upon what the connection is.
What is this person’s connection to you? Is the relationship a professional one? A personal one? Is this person someone you knew in law school? Is the person only an acquaintance? The most important factor in all of the above, which I can’t stress enough, is whether you can count on this person saying nice things about you.
The best connection, of course, is someone who has worked with you and can vouch for your work product and work ethic. Again, if you have such a connection at a firm to which you have applied, I highly recommend that you reach out to that person early on in the process to let her know that you have applied to her firm. If you are not 100% sure that she will say wonderful things about you, call her up or ask to take her to coffee, and try to get a feel for how she feels about your candidacy there. Tell her that you are very excited about the opportunity and think you would be a great fit, and ask if she would mind discussing with the firm the projects you worked on with her. Remind her what those projects were, and what your role was. Stress the projects where you distinguished yourself. In any event, you do need to contact that person if she is in the group that will be considering your candidacy, since your prior relationship to her will probably come to light at some point, and they will ask her about you. You want to make sure that you are shaping that conversation by speaking to her first.
Even a purely personal relationship can be very helpful. If someone can say that they have known you for many years on a personal level, and can vouch for your character, as it were, this can go a long way, especially in smaller firms. Many firms place a high value on personality fit. This can be especially helpful at the end of the process.
Many attorneys I have worked with, especially associates, make the mistake of dropping names of acquaintances during an interview without permission. I do not recommend this. If you have an acquaintance or former law school classmate who is at the firm to which you applied, you should shoot that person an email and let them know you will be interviewing there. Do not be the person who avoids contacting your acquaintance because you feel awkward doing it, only to drop that person’s name without her permission. Most people do not appreciate this.
It depends upon where in the interview process you are.
As discussed above, many connections are best used at the beginning of the process, after the resume has been sent by your recruiter. However, an associate in an unrelated group may actually help you more at the end of the process, or after you already have secured an interview. This is because an Associate in an unrelated group amounts essentially to a personal recommendation, since they will probably have little to say about the substance of your work.
In sum, think about the type and closeness of the relationship you have, and be sure to contact your connection before you offer up her name during an interview. Always, always do everything you can to ensure a positive review of you before you mention the connection to anyone.
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.