As an initial matter, there is usually very little risk in accepting a cold call. At worst, it can waste a minute or two, in which case you should politely say good bye and end it. At best, it can provide you with the employment opportunity of a lifetime. Even if you are not currently “looking,” cold calls can provide you with valuable information about the current market, which makes those calls still worth a few minutes of your valuable time. Moreover, in the legal profession things can (and do) change very quickly. Consequently, you may have need for a top notch recruiter in the future. Accepting cold calls is a great way to meet recruiters, identify which ones really know what they are doing and then build long-term relationships with the best ones so that they will be available in case the need later arises.
What you certainly don’t want to do is immediately agree to have whatever stranger recruiter who happened to call you at that moment send your resume off to however many firms. I have been amazed by how many lawyers will do this. Can you imagine one of your sophisticated clients hiring a lawyer to handle their complex legal work based solely on a single happenstance cold call without any more information about that lawyer, their firm or their experience and level of ability? What if the cold calling lawyer is a complete schlepp?