Seven Things the Best Legal Recruiters Do that You Cannot Do Yourself |

Seven Things the Best Legal Recruiters Do that You Cannot Do Yourself


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Harrison Barnes' Legal Career Advice Podcast - Episode 55

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Summary: Legal recruiters offer unique advantages to attorney job seekers that aren’t always available to them in their legal job search.
Seven Things the Best Legal Recruiters Do that You Cannot Do Yourself

One of the problems with using a service—as opposed to buying a product—is that you never know what you are getting. When you purchase a Mercedes, you know that it is going to be something of a certain quality, absolute reliability and that it has some inherent value in it. In contrast, when you use a service, you do not know all of this. This is especially so with the decision to use a given attorney, doctor, accountant, or a legal recruiter. There are people out there who are poor, average, good and exceptional at what they do. When you are using a given service, you want to use someone exceptional. The results you get from an excellent service are likely to exceed far what you get using a poor one. If you use a poor to an average one, you may be throwing your money away. When we use lawyers, doctors, and others we always talk about how they were ranked the best for doing something, about how they are the best at this, or about where they attended school. We do this because this is often the only way we have to judge whether or not they are good at what they purport to do.
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

But there are plenty of doctors, lawyers, legal recruiters and others who attended great schools and are poor at what they do. I am sure you know many of them.

Here are the three types of recruiting I’ve seen during my years as a recruiter and some other helpful insights:
Before I get into what happens when you use a poor lawyer or legal recruiter, consider what happens when you go to see a poor doctor. I have seen poor doctors before, and it did not go well. I will explain briefly.
Years ago a lymph node on my neck suddenly blew up and became very large. At the same time, all of the skin on one side of my face started peeling off. I went to see a local doctor from the Midwest who had just graduated from medical school at a clinic in Malibu, and they thought it was some infection and prescribed antibiotics. I came back quite upset when it had not gone down a few days later, and the doctor started asking me all sorts of questions about whether I had ever had used intravenous drugs or had unprotected sex with a man while my wife was waiting in the waiting room with two of my children. When the growth got to be the size of my fist, the doctor sent me to the emergency room. I went to the emergency room and sat around the waiting room for several hours and when I was seen they put me on a morphine drip and decided to order some tests. Over the course of several more hours, the growth went down.

The doctors called back a few weeks later and confessed they did not know what it was but sent me to a few specialists. I went to a blood specialist (nephrologist), a neurologist, a cancer doctor, and even an arthritis doctor. None of them could figure it out either. Over the next several weeks, this growth came back again and again, and it was also accompanied by exhaustion so severe I was unable to work for several days. I even went to the emergency room and spent a day there when I was on vacation in San Diego. I was hospitalized again when I was on vacation in Thailand.

After almost a year of this, I was sitting with my wife while she was having her face examined by a dermatologist. The dermatologist was a young doctor who was filled with enthusiasm for her job and excited. Moreover, she had grown up in Los Angeles and knew several people that my wife knew. However, what made this woman so special was that she cared about the work she was doing and took an interest in what was wrong with me. All we had to do was mention this while she was examining my wife's face and she took an immediate interest in solving the issue. She ordered several tests. She brought in a senior doctor she worked with. She had me come back and asked several questions. After a few days of significant independent research on her part —including calling many of the doctors who had been unable to help me, she reached a straightforward conclusion: I was doing too much hot Bikram Yoga, and it was stressing my immune system and making me exhausted. If I stopped doing that, the issue would go away.

I did that, and the growth on my neck never came back, and I started feeling better.

No cancer.
No arthritis.

I was pushing myself too much in a hot room…

What was so interesting about this was that I was meeting all sorts of experts and none of them had any idea what was wrong. I probably saw at least 10 doctors and no one was able to diagnose the problem effectively. They could not do this because they did not ask enough questions, do enough research, or take the time to do a good job. Each specialist I saw also brought their own biases to what was wrong with me:
  • The young Midwestern doctor in Malibu assumed it must be AIDS or drugs because that was where her prejudices were—guys in Malibu must be getting infections caused by sex or drugs.
  • The cancer doctors (and I was sent to two of them) assumed it must be cancer.
  • The neurologist assumed it must be neurological (or in my head).
  • The blood doctor assumed it must be in my blood.
  • The arthritis doctor assumed it must be arthritis.
  • The emergency room doctors did not know what to make of it.

What made all of this so interesting is the doctor that finally solved the issue had nothing whatsoever to do with any of these disciplines. The main thing separating the doctor who solved the problem from the others was that she cared.

I think about that every day, and it is such a powerful concept that it almost makes me want to cry when I think about the best service providers compared to average or poor ones. If someone cares about what they are doing it makes all the difference. If they care about the issue they are working on, or the person they are helping, they can solve problems and get things done that they would not get done if they did not care. That is the most important thing that a doctor, lawyer, or legal recruiter can do: They need to care about you.

We want people to care about us. Most people crave love from their significant others, children, and families. We crave recognition in our communities and our families. We want to be seen as successful by our peers, bosses, and others. Finding people who care about us is extremely important. This is a fundamental human need.

When you find people who care about you in service providers—doctors, lawyers, accountants, legal recruiters—things happen that would not happen if you just hired people who are going through the motions of doing something. People who care about you find solutions; they believe in you and never stop working on your behalf. The cancer doctor who cares about their patient makes sure they do not die and survive when they have cancer. The lawyer may make sure their client gets off. The accountant may ensure their client does not pay too much in tax. The legal recruiter may believe in whom their candidate can become, and will keep researching and connecting their candidate with new employers, speak highly of their candidate to everyone they encounter and not give up on their candidate when things do not go well.

More importantly, the best legal recruiters will have a picture in their mind of whom their candidate can become—and not necessarily who they are now.

On a daily basis, recruiters serve as agents for their candidates, with different degrees of success. What exactly is involved in an effective and efficient agency on behalf of a client, and what should you look for in a recruiter/agent? Leave a comment in the section below!
If you are going to use a service provider—and we all need to use them—the best choice you can make is to use a service provider that cares about you and what you can become. The best legal recruiters see in you what you are capable of being and care about you and never stop caring. That is what makes them different. That is what makes the best legal recruiters, doctors, accountants, and attorneys.

When I got started in legal recruiting, what I saw is that almost all of the legal recruiters I encountered did not care about the people they were serving. Many legal recruiters had gone into legal recruiting because they did not like practicing law, or the hours. They figured that legal recruiting was an excellent way to use their law degrees while doing something else. However, more importantly, these legal recruiters often were the sort of people who did not care very much about practicing law, or legal recruiting. Their interests were elsewhere. They did not have a passion for people or helping them.

It is a mystery to me why any legal recruiter would let a phone call go unanswered. After all, you never know when you are going to meet a potential client or a friend of a potential client. To me that show that a legal recruiter doesn’t care. Check out my FAQ article about the basics of legal recruiting.
When it comes to our careers, there are two paths you can take. Some people are motivated by helping people and caring for them directly—and there are people who are driven by things that do not involve people, as can be the case with jobs like engineering, working in labs, architecture, finance, construction, geologist, physicist, web developer, meteorologist and so forth. Jobs that involve helping people are things like being a family doctor, criminal attorney, legal recruiter, chiropractor, and so forth. The closer a person is to helping an actual person, the more the job involves helping people.

People who gravitate towards helping people and are motivated by this tend to be the best legal recruiters. For example, I have rarely seen someone who is a corporate attorney be an excellent legal recruiter—it happens, but most do not do very well in legal recruiting. The best legal recruiters and the ones who last at the job tend to be litigators because this is the branch of law that is the closest to people. Patent and finance attorneys also do not make outstanding legal recruiters. The intensely personal aspects required by the job are difficult for many of these attorneys. The best legal recruiters tend to be the most interested in people. People who go into the profession to try and make money, or because they just do not like practicing law, make poor legal recruiters. To be truly good at legal recruiting, you need to have the ability to care about others.

When a legal recruiter cares about you and what you are trying to achieve, the following happens:
  1. The legal recruiter attempts to elicit as much personal information as possible for you to help you. An excellent legal recruiter does not view you as a potential transaction. Instead, the best legal recruiters see you as an exciting and unique person with a story that needs to be told. Someone who is naturally interested in legal recruiting will want to know personal information about you, your history of employment, and your hobbies and understand what motivates you. The recruiter will then use this information so they can personalize you to law firms, tell a story about you and highlight your strengths. They will also use this information so they can advise you about the right moves you should be making. This is one reason it is so essential for the best legal recruiters to be interested in people—and not transactions. The best legal recruiters can draw out your strengths, understand you and communicate those strengths to employers effectively. When an excellent legal recruiter represents you, they can take what you say about yourself and portray it in a very positive light—so much so that you would look immodest if you were to say the things they say about you. An excellent legal recruiter wants to help you and is interested in what you represent to the world and how you think about yourself.
  2. The legal recruiter puts much thought into the work product they produce for you. The best legal recruiter produces high-quality, flawless work when they write about you and present you to law firms. The best legal recruiters can take your story and produce high-quality application materials for you that make you stand out and look exceptional. When you are represented by an excellent legal recruiter, they put the same thought into your work that a competent attorney would into a critical brief. The audience for the recruiter’s work product is other attorneys. Attorneys judge work product with a different standard than most of the public. This is one reason that it is often quite crucial for legal recruiters to be attorneys. It is another reason why it is essential for the legal recruiter to care about you. If a legal recruiter is producing poor work product on your behalf, it hurts you in the eyes of employers and reflects poorly on you. Just as you would not want to be represented by a poor attorney who cannot produce good work product, you should not want to be represented by a recruiter who does the same.
  3. An excellent legal recruiter sees what you can become. The best legal recruiters have a vision for you and believe that who you are now is not who you will be tomorrow. If you are unemployed, they see you as employed. If you are at a small law firm trying to go to a large law firm, they see you in the large law firm. If you are unhappy with the people you are practicing law with, they see you working with a group of like-minded individuals. If you are trying to move to another market, they see you in that market. If an excellent legal recruiter believes in you and is pushing you forward, this can make a huge difference in the person that you become in the long run. Working with someone who has a genuine vision for you and sees you improving and becoming a better person is powerful and something that the best legal recruiters do.
  4. You hear from the legal recruiter all the time. A job search is something you do not just start and finish right away. This can happen, but it does not happen that way too often. Instead, a job search will often take weeks to months. The attorneys I work with hear from me with new jobs and suggestions at least once a week—and they also receive job alerts from me the second we find new positions. This means that I am researching new positions, finding new firms and making suggestions for each candidate I work with at least once per week. Once I start working with someone, I never stop—I am always on top of the market for them and will never stop unless my candidate stops responding to me, or they decide they are no longer interested in a position. This is in contrast to the way it works with many legal recruiters. Many legal recruiters will send you to a few firms, and if things do not work out after this, you will never hear from them again. They may be embarrassed they were unable to get you a position initially, or feel you are unmarketable if they are not able to land you interviews quickly. Regardless, if you work with an excellent legal recruiter, they will believe in you, and you will continuously be hearing from them.
  5. The legal recruiter follows up on your behalf. It is one thing for a legal recruiter to introduce you to a law firm. It is quite another for that legal recruiter to continually follow up and make sure the law firm has seen your materials and considered them fully. Most human resources departments and partners inside of law firms are quite rushed when it comes to looking at applicants who come in. In this day and age, many law firms may receive resumes through email and often miss emails. Because there is such a volume of emails coming in, law firms may often be disorganized and miss some of them—misplacing them even. Law firms are human, and these sorts of mistakes are human as well. To counteract this, we have several ways we ensure we are following up on every candidate we represent. We call law firms to follow up, we do not just email application materials (we also mail them), we send law firms reports several times a month of attorneys pending with them that we are representing and ask them to update us. Also, because all we do are law firm placements and have been doing this for so long, we are typically in touch with most law firms on an ongoing basis speaking with them weekly in many cases. This informal relationship gives us an edge when it comes to ensuring that we can ask questions about our pending candidates. While all of this may seem like something that every legal recruiter should be doing, it, unfortunately, is not. Following up is work. Mailing application materials is work. Calling law firms after a submission is work. Designing electronic follow-ups is work and costs money. All of these things take time—and recruiters who care do things that recruiters who do not care do not.
  6. The recruiter helps you learn from mistakes. The best legal recruiters will help you learn from your mistakes. It is not uncommon for attorneys to make a series of significant mistakes in both their careers and job searches. Attorneys make moves to the wrong firms. Attorneys may get fired. Attorneys may go in-house. Attorneys may quit jobs without another one lined up. Regardless of the mistake, there are all sorts of mistakes that attorneys make that can harm their future law firm careers. When an attorney starts interviewing with law firms, they may interview with several law firms and not get offers—or even call back interviews. Every attorney has made mistakes in their career and has done some things wrong. Most of the best legal recruiters are attorneys and understand what a mistake is and what is not. They can also help attorneys learn from their mistakes and position themselves to learn from their mistakes. Being outstanding at legal recruiting means that the best legal recruiters will have the ability to help you learn from what you have done wrong and not make the same mistakes next time. This means debriefing you after each interview and taking other actions to ensure you are more successful next time.
  7. The legal recruiter has the resources to introduce you to a wide variety of law firms if necessary. BCG Attorney Search has been in the business of legal recruiting for over 20 years. There are tens of thousands of law firms in the United States that have openings on an ongoing basis. The legal market is gigantic, and it requires considerable staff to monitor all of the positions in the market. BCG Attorney Search has a staff of over 100 researchers, programmers and others (in addition to our legal recruiters) who are continually monitoring the legal market for new openings. We are continually finding new firms and learning about their current and ongoing needs. We do this on a national and international scale. Depending on your practice area and relative strength, it may be essential for you to investigate law firms in more than one location. This sort of aggressiveness and scale can make a significant difference in how successful you are in your search for a new position. It is axiomatic that if a legal recruiter has more opportunities, you are more likely to be placed in a good position. The issue with most legal recruiting firms is that they do a variety of things—law firms, in-house, contract placement and more. This puts them in a situation where they are not focused on just permanent law firms positions. Also, the majority of legal recruiting firms are smaller (many are run by solos) and do not have the resources to track down positions and make you aware of the market—this hurts you in your search.

BCG Attorney Search has a staff of over 100 researchers, programmers and others (in addition to our legal recruiters) who are continually monitoring the legal market for new openings. Those researchers and other staff members created a State of the Market Report for our clients. Please read it below and share it on social media if you find it helpful.
When you work with a talented legal recruiter and legal recruiting firm, there is a vast "value add" that ensures you will likely be far more successful working with them than you would be on your own—or with an average legal recruiter. The best legal recruiters can find you more positions, prepare you better for interviews, position your candidacy most effectively and make sure your story is told, and you are seen. Without a doubt, if you are represented by a talented legal recruiter, you are far more likely to be successful with them than you even would be on your own.

There are only a few times where you might consider applying to a firm without a legal recruiter. Our own legal recruiter Romina L. Filippou wrote an article about just this type of exception.
Most critically, though, the best legal recruiters will care about you and the work that they do profoundly. It is about more than just a job to them. The best legal recruiters want you to succeed and be the best you can be. They take an interest in you, and they care. People who care about you, your goals and want you to succeed can make a powerful difference in what happens over the course of your life and career.

One of the misconceptions that attorneys often have is that they can do things themselves. They believe that because they are smart, have jobs in good law firms, and went to good law schools, they understand how to do a job search. It is about much more than that. Just as most legal recruiters would be unlikely to be able to practice the kind of law you do—so too do most attorneys know nothing about effective legal placement and what we do. For many attorneys to succeed in their job search, they unfortunately often need to be dragged kicking and screaming to the party. When they achieve the results we can help them get, they realize that it is the best thing that could have ever happened to them.

What Happens When You Work with a BCG Attorney Search Legal Placement Professional? A job search is an important life event and we are dedicated to making the process as painless and successful as possible for you. Since 1999, we have placed thousands of attorneys and changed countless lives and careers for the better. To learn more about us and our mission, please read this article below:
Share Your Thoughts

It cannot be underestimated that when a candidate works with BCG Attorney Search, that candidate gets the full support of an entire team. Unlike recruiting agencies, BCG Attorney Search is a legal placement firm dedicated to making the process as painless and successful as possible for you.
What has been your experience working with legal recruiters or placement firms? Did the firm or recruiter help you find your dream job, or make that tough lateral move?

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.

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