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Summary: Why haven’t I heard back yet from a law firm after a recruiter has already sent my materials to them?
Question: After my recruiter submits my materials to firms, how long will it take to hear back?
Answer: I get this question from candidates all the time. Unfortunately, the answer is that it depends on several factors: a) your credentials and practice area, b) the time of the year, and c) dumb luck.
It goes without saying that if you are a well-credentialed candidate with a desirable practice area, you are likelier to hear back quickly. For example, general commercial litigation and labor & employment are both very hot practice areas in California, so if your practice centers around one of these two practice areas, you attended a top law school, and you have been practicing for about two to six years (the sweet spot for making a lateral move), you should hopefully get an interview relatively quickly. That said, you are likely to hear back even quicker if you are less picky in approving firms. I recently had a relatively strong candidate who had attended UCLA Law and was at a respectable LA boutique practicing both labor & employment and general commercial litigation. However, he only had one year of experience and would only approve top Big Law firms. I wasn’t able to get him an interview due to his lack of practical experience and his choosiness in approving firms. If you are willing to approve firms of all sizes and “pedigrees”, you are much likelier to get an interview faster. We recommend keeping an open mind when approving firms. A smaller firm may surprise you, and if nothing else, smaller firms will serve as useful interview practice experience for you.
The time of the year can make a big difference in whether or not you hear back from firms quickly. Summer is the slowest time of the year for both recruiters and law firm hiring (candidates and law firms are less responsive, so recruiters work less). A lot of candidates and recruiting coordinators are on vacation for long stretches of time, so it can take longer than usual to hear back. Come early September, recruiting coordinators become more responsive once again, and there is a good amount of activity during the fall until Thanksgiving. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, it is very slow, as once again, recruiting coordinators are preparing for the holidays or are on vacation, and candidates are unlikely to want to lateral because they are waiting to receive their January bonuses. January to April is the fastest time of the year for us. If you apply during this period, you are likelier to receive an interview quickly.
And of course, dumb luck plays a role when it comes to getting your first interview. I’ve had a relatively weak candidate receive an interview within a week of my submitting her because she was not choosy when approving firms, she was interested in the OC (many candidates are not), and a particular OC boutique was willing to consider her for a practice area that she hadn’t practiced in for years. I’ve also had strong candidates wait weeks or even months to get interviews because the time of the year is slow, they approve very few firms, or they only approve Big Law firms, where there is more bureaucracy and sometimes several layers of approvals need to happen before an interview gets scheduled.
Overall, you can expect to get an interview anywhere between a day after submission to several months after submission. Even if it does take months to hear a positive response from a firm, do not lose hope! If you communicate with your recruiter and diligently approve firms every week, sooner or later (but hopefully sooner!), a firm will want to interview you.