California's Leading Attorney Recruiting Firm

Providing Insight and Strategic Advice about Legal Recruiting

You are viewing 24 posts by the author Diane Rifkin

Trends in California Law Firms

So many changes in the way firms do business during the last five years...some areas of practice that were dormant are now "hot", such as corporate law and real estate.  Labor and employment remains a very desirable area of practice for attorneys, given the rise of wage hour and class action matters.  The bottom line is, however, that law firms are businesses.  Therefore, what do the current trend and recent statistics tell us?  I believe they show caution, steadiness, and reflect much hope...

We expect developing trends in some of the following areas: classification(s) of Equity and Non-Equity partners, associates being encouraged (and required) to develop business at an earlier stage in their careers, and creative compensation structures at the partner level(s).  Each of these areas reflects a practical approach and will determine the future development and stability of a firm long-term.

Ten Steps to an Outstanding LinkedIn Profile

My esteemed colleague, Anabella Bonfa, is a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who writes and lectures on how to enhance your LinkedIn profile to maximize this marketing tool.  I have personally observed how Anabella works tirelessly to  help young lawyers achieve their "personal best".  She has a passion for assisting others, and with jumpstarting how to project themselves in the business world.  Can't help but to share this with you...

Special Note:
“This material is reproduced from the CEBblog™ entry, 10 Steps to an Outstanding LinkedIn Profile, ( copyright 2015 by the Regents of the University of California.  Reproduced with permission of Continuing Education of the Bar - California.  (For information about CEB publications, telephone toll free 1-800-CEB-3444 or visit our Web site,”

LinkedIn is an excellent marketing tool for lawyers. Here’s how to make your LinkedIn profile—your first impression there—as effective as it can be.

  1. Get a professional photo. Your photo is the first thing people see about you on LinkedIn—it will be seen every time you comment, make a recommendation, or write an update. Use a photo of your chest up that clearly shows your face. Dress professionally, as you would appear in court, and smile. Definitely don’t edit a wedding photo or have a distracting background.
  2. Use the “Professional Headline” to your advantage. Under your name, you can add a professional headline. Rather than a generic title, such as “Attorney,” use this section to your advantage by stating your practice area (e.g., “Family Law Attorney”). Let potential clients and professional connections immediately know your area of expertise.
  3. Complete the “Summary” background section. This is the most important part of your profile. You have about 10 seconds to capture the viewer’s attention and let them know who you are. Your summary section should state who your clients are and what you do for them. Make sure to describe the types of cases you handle in a way that nonlawyers can understand. A list of your specialties is also helpful. The summary is an excellent place to discuss past non-legal work that contributes to your law practice.
  4. Upload photos or videos. Below the summary section, add photos to make your profile visually interesting and make you more approachable. For example, include photos of you posing with clients, giving a professional presentation, or doing community service work. You can also add video from your website, interviews, etc.
  5. Request recommendations. Recommendations are the heart of your LinkedIn profile. Ask your past employers or clients for a personal recommendation discussing the quality of your work and service. Let past clients know that you don’t expect them to share their legal issue, just their thoughts on the level of service you provided. Remember to return the favor and recommend others who you hold in high esteem. Note that “recommendations” differ from “endorsements.” If you choose to have your skills listed and have people “endorse you,” keep the list of skills short and don’t accept endorsements from anyone you don’t know or for skills you didn’t list yourself.
  6. Invite people to connect. The quality of your contacts is far more important than the quantity. View others’ profiles and link with those with whom you intend to work in the future or who already know the quality of your past work. Personalize your invitation: “Hello: This is John Smith. We met at last night’s fundraiser. I would like you to join my LinkedIn network.” If you already know someone in common, this would be an ideal place to mention your shared connection.
  7. Complete the “Publications” section. List all articles and books you have written, as well as oral presentations you have made before professional groups.
  8. Complete the “Volunteer & Causes” section. This little-used section allows you to share the community service projects and non-profit activities in which you and your firm are involved. People enjoy working with attorneys who share their own personal causes.
  9. Join groups. There are many LinkedIn groups specifically geared toward attorneys and law practice, e.g., groups for law schools, bar associations, practice areas, legal marketing, etc. Find groups of interest and join the conversation there. Showing the groups you have joined on your profile helps others see your interests and leads to new connections.
  10. Write an update. Once you have a strong profile set up, you’re ready to start posting updates—and your interesting updates will likely bring people back to view your profile. Share updates about your law practice, changes in the law, and information of interest to your colleagues and clients. You can link to a blog post or article by inserting its URL in the update box. If you don’t have time to write a regular blog, this is an excellent way to provide relevant and insightful opinions on legal issues.

Although it’s tempting, don’t use your profile to directly ask for work. Not only might this run afoul of professional responsibility rules, it makes you sound desperate. Newer attorneys should focus on the skills they have to offer based on past work experience. For example, focus on why you excel at dealing with clients, problem solving, working in a stressful environment, and managing deadlines.

Put your best self forward in your LinkedIn profile and reap the professional benefits!

Anabella Q. Bonfa. Ms. Bonfa is a litigator with Wellman & Warren LLP, handling business and partnership disputes, theft of trade secrets, and unfair competition. She lectures extensively on trade secrets, networking, and using social media to develop business.

Get My Attention – Send a Respectable Cover Letter!

Recently I read an article by a recruiter who very straightforwardly acknowledged that she often receives unimpressive application materials from job-seekers.  This is often a non-starter and the result is…Delete.  Why?  I would not hire someone who either isn’t willing, able or savvy enough to realize how important this first stage of the screening process is.

When I say “unimpressive”, I’m referring to more than just the resume and academics – I am including and focusing on the cover letter here because the cover letter, which is typically the first impression a reviewer gets, is either poorly written or there is none. 

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH? The increasing use of email vs. snail mail has resulted in fewer cover letters than ever.  Frequently I receive email submissions with no cover letter – no introduction at all.  Attached is a resume with no explanation why the applicant is considering a job change or what position they seek.  Those that really make me shake my head address me as the employer, rather than a recruiter.  They clearly don’t know where they are even sending their resume!  Not only does it require extra effort on my part to obtain this necessary information, but their apparent lack of basic understanding about this process often leaves me feeling that the lack of attention to detail reflects a lack of professionalism…and that is a real turn-off.  Alternatively, perhaps the candidate has so much self-confidence that he believes that resume speaks for itself, but this is a huge assumption to make.

MATCH YOUR SKILLS TO THE JOB:  Stunningly, I get numerous resumes from applicants who aren’t even attorneys.  Anyone with basic internet skills and has visited our web site knows that we only work with attorneys.  This seems either lazy or desperate to me – and the resume is deleted.  What a waste of precious time on both our parts!  Wouldn’t they research an employer before an interview? Respect your own time, as well as mine.

RECRUITERS ARE THE “GATEKEEPERS”.  Candidates must pass our scrutiny in order to get in front of our employer clients.  If your cover letter and accompanying materials don’t show thought, clarity, and relevant details at a glance, they just won’t make the cut.  We want to help you get a job – that’s why we are in this business.  Take the time to do a thorough and professional job if you truly expect to be taken seriously.

Make Yourself Memorable!

Summertime is almost here and numerous law students will begin jobs, many in law firms.  These are probably the lucky ones, because they will have an edge over colleagues who were unable to secure a position.    Our previous blogs discussed various strategies for these unemployed students to use to find jobs in order to avoid the summertime blues.  But how about a few pointers for those who will be working in a law firm?  Of course, you are required to do excellent work. What else do we suggest?  Make yourself memorable!

How can you make yourself memorable?

Millennials are often viewed as self-absorbed with unreasonable expectations and a sense of entitlement.  Sorry folks, it doesn’t sound pretty, and that’s the short version!  But we know they also have technological skills that previous generations don’t.  Everyone is replaceable, but position yourself such that the firm would really miss your contributions if you weren’t around.  You may wish to consider:

   - Tech Advantage: Use your special technological abilities not only to produce high quality work in a timely manner, but also to consider developing or contributing to your firm’s social networking sites.  Go beyond the standard Blog and suggest topics that are cutting edge or may be unique for a multi-generational audience - but always ensure that you have your employer’s approval prior to publication.

   - Dress Like A Professional:  while it may be acceptable to dress in jeans and Birkenstocks, it’s just not professional.  That is not the image that your firm wants intra-firm or with clients.  It’s sort of like when you had your interview and sat at lunch with several attorneys…do you think they took you out merely to feed you and ask questions? Of course not, they also observed your manner and presence, thinking about how you might appear when taking a client to lunch.  While “dress like a professional” does not necessarily mean wearing a suit or tie, dress the part.  Ask yourself this “if the partner spontaneously asked me to go to court with him, how would I want to look to represent the firm and myself to the judge?”  When in doubt, consider the three “C’s”: current, classic, conservative.  [No, these are not contradictory, you can do it!]

   - Social Abilities; Demonstrate that you can hold your own in a conversation with colleagues and clients. Maintain self-control at firm functions where alcohol is served, just as you (hopefully) would at a business lunch. Future employers are often part of a generation that wants to believe that you know how to communicate beyond the keyboard.

   - Show Respect for Generational Differences:  You’ll be working with people from several different generations.  It’s very important to recognize that you must show respect for them and their ways of doing things, even though your own opinions may differ.

   - Learn About the Firm Culture; understanding the firm’s environment will be an advantage towards determining how to best become memorable. 

Congratulations on obtaining a summer associate position….now go make yourself memorable!

Women vs. Men, Is There a Confidence Gap?

Today I read an article “The Confidence Gap”, espousing the premise that more women lack confidence than men.  If true, why is this and can this be overcome?  Is the stereotype true that, traditionally, women feel less confident in business situations than men?  Is it still a “man’s world”, whether women do or don’t exude confidence?

As a teen of the 60’s, I’ve seen – and experienced - great changes and significant advances for women in the workplace.  Hey – it used to be (in the olden days) that a stay-at-home mom had no legal way of even funding her own Roth IRA! 

I did not develop my business experience in the larger corporate world, so I can only speak about this from the perspective of friends who have.  These women felt strong and competent during those years, but had to learn to maneuver in a man’s world.  Did they have to adapt to how men “operated” in order to get ahead?  I am told that they often did.  However, many women today believe that they are better off, long term, if they appreciate the differences and utilize them to their advantage. 

Why would women WANT to be like men?  If equal compensation is the issue, then we have laws to deal with these issues.   Respect?  Our behavior, actions and reputation should engender respect, as this is not a “given”.  Women tend to have a sensitivity that men do not and, if not to the level of emotionality, it can be a true benefit in dealing with others in the workplace. 

Do women have to be tough to be effective?   If tough implies “strong”, “resilient”, and “stable”, I think the answer is probably yes.  However, if “tough” is interpreted as “rough”, “harsh” or “hard-hitting”, then I doubt such women will be viewed positively.  Even those of us outside the large corporate world know that there is much to be gained from strength through diplomacy, respect through integrity, resilience through a positive attitude, focus and forthrightness.

Should a woman behave differently during a job interview?  Does the generational classification of the interviewer affect the outcome when it comes to stereotypes?  I believe that we always have to have a healthy respect for, even if we don't agree withor feel in control of, the human element. 

It is important to note that I believe young women today often view this issue as a nonstarter, expecting to be treated with a certain degree of respect out of the gate.  I applaud this frame of mind so long as they behave in a way that deserves such respect.

Many folks might disagree with me, but I believe a woman has to find her confidence not only through results, but also by operating from within – and at times pushing the boundaries of - her comfort zone.  The result can engender such a level of self-respect that it actually gives her the courage to ‘lean in” and accomplish whatever she wants to.

What An Employer Looks For in an Applicant: The Basics

Part 3;   How to Start Networking and Get a Job

  • Submissions of application materials: Make it personal. Submissions should always be addressed to an individual – not “To Whom It May Concern”.  Methods of delivery; adhere to any requirements. Don’t use first names unless you know the recipient.  Follow up in 10 days if you have not heard from the firm.  Stay professional, and remember that they have many other responsibilities on their plates besides considering your application.  Don’t be a pest.

  • Impeccably-drafted resume; avoid flourishes and designs, excessive bolding or underlining, and pay attention to the nature of personal interests listed.  It’s preferable to keep interests off unless you have particular accomplishments that set you apart.  Examples might be language fluency, international travel or managerial positions.

  • Writing sample: If you include a writing sample, make sure that it contains absolutely no inaccuracies or misspellings.

  • Transcript: include with initial submission only if required by the firm, unless you have stellar grades.

  • Cover letters:  Covers must be concise and address why you are interested in THAT firm, and how your interest and skills can BENEFIT that firm.  They will not consider you just because you need a job.  Take the time to get to know people and their needs, because the only reason they would hire you is if you can fill those needs anyway.  Thank them for their consideration – not their time.  Tell them, primarily, some things of interest that are NOT on your resume – or you can also emphasize items of significance.  Limit the use of the word “I” – employers want to know what you can do for them NOW!

  • Activities: Keep them relevant, or that show leadership and/or managerial skills.

  • Show confidence, but not arrogance. You can accomplish this by being familiar with the firm, and comfortable with who you are. Be prepared to express your goal(s) articulately and concisely.

  • You must have a reasonable understanding of what the attorney and firm does - do your homework!


  • There is no second chance to make a first impression!  Arrive prepared for the interview.  Don’t be late.   Dress appropriately; wear a suit unless otherwise instructed (professional dress shows a potential employer how you would present to a client).

  • Prepare for questions about your skills and goals and offer examples.  Don’t embellish or get defensive, as no one expects a law student or entry level attorney to have a lot of experience.

  • Tell me what you can do for me right now!  Show initiative, be prepared to discuss your strengths, but do so in the context of examples.

  • It’s not all about YOU, or what YOU want.  Focus primarily on their needs and goals, so that you can make a more informed decision about whether that firm is a fit for you. For example, ask what the ideal candidate looks like to them.

  • Don’t talk too much! Learn to listen – listen to learn!

  • GRADES: Don’t make the mistake if thinking that achieving a J.D. is enough to get a good job.  Grades will almost always matter for approximately 7-10+ years, as well as your accomplishments.

  • Be aware of verbal and non-verbal behavior – these are both important parts of your personal presence.

  • Don’t underestimating the importance of generational differences; realize that the person interviewing you is likely from a different generation and has worked many years to achieve what he/she has, including long hours and many sacrifices.  Millennials are considered to want to achieve things quickly and want work/life balance from the start.  

REMEMBER - You are smart and have the technological savvy – but THEY have the jobs.  Educate yourself about these differences, and show respect for them.


1. What are small and medium sized law firms looking for in applicants?  Applicants who have the experience in the job description, and with a personality that will mesh in a smaller firm environment.

2. What is the hiring process like for small and mid-size law firms when they hire associates or law students?  Typically 1-3 interviews, where you’ll meet main partners and associates.  If the firm extends an offer, you will typically have 48 hours to 1 week to accept.

3. How can a student stand out from the rest? Personal presence and message, consistency of brand, impressively-drafted resume, LinkedIn profile, quality of developed relationships (references).

4.  If grades are not your strongest asset, what can you do to make yourself competitive? See above, plus a professional Blog can prove valuable in many ways.

5. While in law school, what are some things I can do now that will help me later in my career? Develop an online presence, and start laying groundwork with individuals and at events.  See networking tips, above.

6. What areas of law are growing and employing more lawyers? Labor and employment, IP Patent litigation (particularly with an EE or CS degree), some corporate and real estate positions are opening up. What areas of the law are tightening and hiring less? Litigation, Bankruptcy.

6. How did networking influence the job you have (or any jobs that you've had)?  I was introduced to attorney recruiting by my brother – who had used a recruiter years before.  During law school, we were not educated about the services of recruiters, so I was unfamiliar with the benefits of working with one. We had a good synergy and I joined her business.  In 2005, I incorporated Rifkin Consulting.

Another example is that a professional colleague introduced to a journalist at a renowned legal publication.  We get together regularly, have developed a really positive personal and professional relationship, and I’ve had significant opportunities to get meaningful PR exposure as a result. 

7. After meeting someone at a networking event, what is the best way to cultivate that relationship?  Pay attention to that person’s business card, and comment on it when possible.  Too often people just discard business cards, but in Asian culture this is considered disrespectful.   Send a nice note afterwards to people with whom you wish to remain in contact – calendar follow ups.  Show value. 

8. What is the #1 thing you should and should not do at a networking event?  Ask for a job.

9. Any general tips for anyone that has not been to a networking event?

  • Choose events with intention and purpose.  Your time is valuable.
  • See if you can obtain the attendance list, and research people on the list. You can make efforts to introduce yourself to targeted attendees at the event.
  • Be genuine, smile, use direct eye contact, and develop a good handshake.  Learn how to walk up to strangers and introduce yourself.  Practice how to creatively ask about them about themselves.  An example might be to avoid saying “what do you do”, but consider something a bit more personal such as “What is the nature of your business (practice”, or “What do you enjoy most about your specialty”.
  • Have a business card made that is professional and represents your brand.  This is a wonderful tool to provide to someone who asks for your contact information.  It need not include your address. Share it with intention.
  • When it’s time to move on and talk to someone else, you need a graceful way to accomplish this.  For example, “It’s really been a pleasure speaking with you.” 
  • Follow up with a short note after the event.

I hope this information has been helpful.  Please check back for additions and modifications, and visit our Professional Resources page at .

How to Start Networking and Get a Job


  • Approach: Network with Intention; implement an intentional and strategic approach, both (a) online and (b) in person.
  • Lay the groundwork.  If you avail yourself of too many venues and events you will likely end up  feeling scattered, exhausted and ineffective.  Narrow your scope, set incremental goals, and strategize about methods of implementation to achieve them.


LinkedIn: enjoy a 360 degree resume – for free!

  • Employers and other professionals view these; they often act as a preliminary “screen” 
  • Complete your profile; provide the information of a resume, yet with a slightly personal/individual touch
  • Ask for – and give - recommendations (better than endorsements). Get clients and advocates to tell your story!  
  • Take a seminar on how to make your profile very searchable, be specific in your summary
  • Develop a professional Blog and link to it
  • Get involved with Groups and participate in the discussions
  • Post relevant and appropriate photos (i.e., professional activities, charitable activities) 


  • Be cautious about postings, despite your privacy settings
  • Be clear with yourself and others (in the nature of the content) about the purpose of the postings/use of the site (keep it appropriately personal or professional – best not to combine these). 


  • Personal networking has become paramount.  WHY?   The connections students might make early on can really help when it comes time to fill a position. It's never too late to start.
  • Take the time to get to know people and their needs, because the only reason they would hire you is if you can fill those needs anyway. 
  • Make it manageable!  Network with Intention – Narrow your Scope to Start: Find 10 people in the professional space that are doing something you want to do, meet them and ask how they got there. If you earn that group’s trust person by person, you’ll be well on your way to a reputation as someone with a clear purpose in the job market.
  • Practice asking meaningful questions – including with people you know, like family members.  You might be surprised at what you learn
  • Informational interviews: Contact someone whose specialty interests you and request a coffee, lunch or brief office informational meeting.  Be clear about your intention, for example, “Mr. Smith, as a student at Loyola Law School who is interested in learning more about the practice of employment law, would you be willing to meet me briefly for coffee to discuss the profession?  I am interested in learning more about the nuances, recent trends and your opinion of the future of this practice area.”  Attorneys like to talk about what they do and they'll probably take you up on it.
  • Research the person and be familiar with recent news in order to have a meaningful discussion.  Once you have their attention, you can show the value you would bring to them – regardless of whether or not you work for them in the future.
  • DO NOT ASK FOR A JOB!  Instead, ask what they would suggest for someone entering their field.  

FOLLOWING UP:  While you learn what those tips are, you can mention some of the things you’ve done, your skills, and other things that would show you’re a smart person working hard to accomplish your goal.

  • Follow up with a sincere thank you note. 
  • Calendar to follow up with that person periodically.
  • Keep them in mind!  For example, occasionally send them a relevant article or even a referral when possible.  Do not expect anything in return.
  • It’s crucial to remember that others have a circle of influence.  You never know when they might mention you to someone they know who can make a meaningful difference in your life.
  • Consider keeping a chart, such as Excel, with your networking efforts and status


  • Take advantage of any OCS programming, career fairs, mock interviews, etc. that are offered. This is another way to meet people and to sharpen skills in the process.
  • Often local bar organizations have a reduced (or free) rate for students to attend (usually) monthly events. This is a great way to meet attorneys and figure out what firms and practice areas might be busy/hiring.
  • Volunteer positions could lead to paying jobs... positions like a judicial externship are quite  valuable because the judge will often serve as a reference in helping to secure the next job.
  • Don't ignore public interest (and government, though they usually aren't hiring straight out of law school) because of fear of student loans.
  • Educate yourself on flexible (and generous) loan payback options such as the IBR (income based repayment) which pegs your monthly payment to a fixed percent of discretionary income and you can qualify for loan forgiveness (of federal loans) after 10 years of repayment (doesn't have to be in the same job). 
  • Don't forget to check the job postings in the Daily Journal, they often have positions that are not posted online
  • Mine the school's alumni network. Meeting with alumni could lead to a job, or if an alumni member hears of a job they might think of the student who reached out to them
To Be Continued In Part 3; What an Employer Looks For In an Applicant


How to Start Networking and Get a Job

Part One; Why You Must Network

Based on a presentation at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles on 2/12/14. 


In 1988, I graduated from Villanova School of Law outside Philadelphia.  Villanova is viewed very much back east like Loyola is here in Los Angeles – a highly-regarded regional law school.  I worked for a large law firm, and subsequently for small firms.  When I relocated to California, I knew no one but a couple of family members.

Since I started attorney recruiting 14 years ago, more than half of those years were during a recession.

 What does this information have to do with you?  Well, in real estate you always hear the phrase “location, location, location”.  What I want you to remember is “connections, connections, connections”.  This realization changed my professional life – and I’m confident that it can change yours.

Connections, as well as hard work and a lot of patience, have contributed tremendously to my success in business.  On a similar note, developing relationships after I moved to California was critical, and it took years of effort to develop friendships and acquaintances like I had back East for so many years.  I mention this because developing connections is, in many ways, like making friends. But like friends, connections and relationships should be chosen carefully.  Therefore, it’s important that you network with intention.

Developing personal networking habits and skills will always be essential to your professional success, as there is no replacement for the human connection.  What about the importance and efficiency of social media connections and exposure, you ask? Our world is inextricably linked with Social Media.  Therefore, it’s hard to separate what you need to know to interview well and/or land a job, versus [personal] networking advice.

You want to know how to get a job, how to keep a job, and how to become secure to weather a recession in the future…b/c the only thing you can really be sure of is…there will be change.  Recession will happen again, and technology is rapidly evolving. 

Competition may seem greater than ever, with more candidates having access to information about available jobs.  However… the GOOD news is that, thanks to technology, you have more information and other resources at your fingertips than previous generations – so what are you going to do now that you are armed with these tools?


  • Why You Must Network
  • How Do You Get Started?
  • What an Employer Seeks in an Applicant; Do’s and Don’ts 


1. Networking is crucial for your career. Effective networking leads to relationships, and people tend to hire other people who they know and like. 

2. You are unique – but look to your right and to your left – those people are also unique.  You must distinguish yourself with a personal brand.

3. Brand vs. Reputation: Both your brand and reputation are important to your success

  • Your “brand’ is what people think of when they hear your name (or company) – it’s an intangible business asset that distinguishes you from others.  It can be hard to define, but until you do it’s hard to clearly articulate to others “who” you are. 

  • Your “reputation” is what they think about you as a person, such as having integrity and being reliable. 

  • How do you hone your message and how do you communicate it to those you meet?

  • I suggest working with a trusted friend or colleague to develop a brief introduction that is clear and compelling, and

  • Be patient, as this takes time and regular re-evaluation.  [More on developing your message in a future article].

  • You must provide value; the law firm world has changed.  Gone are the days when you worked for a firm, did good work, and made partner in 6 years…and remained there happily ever after.  More than ever, however, law firms are viewed as a business and so you need to provide VALUE if you want to be hired – and remain employed. The new “reality” is that your “value” will be closely connected with the clients/business that you bring to a firm.  This is achieved by networking, and developing relationships with people who will hire or refer you based on their perception of your brand and reputation.

  • Start planning now to be a business generator, by making connections and nurturing them. Doing so will not only help you now – but also in the future by enhancing your job security.  Once you have a client base that generates business, you gain independence and freedom – to make choices based on your personal needs and desires.

  • Utilize your Millennial Edge to your Advantage!  Law School students and young attorneys are typically referred to as “Millennials”.  The Millennial generation is known for being technologically savvy – it’s vital that you make sure you are also “people-savvy” if you want to succeed.

  • Learn the proper way to make a referral, and to accept a referral
  • Learn to listen – listen to learn
  • Practice following up with connections
  • Adopt an attitude of not expecting immediate results, or receiving anything in return

To be continued in Part 2:  How To Get Started

Secrets To Getting Recruiters To Work With You

If you are having trouble getting attorney recruiters to work on your behalf to find a job, there could be a variety of reasons.  It is important to identify the reasons and take steps to correct them.  Rifkin Consulting often works with those attorneys who are having trouble getting a job and can give sound advice on making yourself more attractive to employers.

What Can I Do To Get A Recruiter's Attention?

Attorney recruiters are like any other professionals; they want the most employable attorneys on their books.  They have the best chance of placing these attorneys to big law firms and therefore making larger commissions.  Recruiters often have parameters, i.e., some attorney recruiters do not accept attorneys who are looking for jobs in small firms, who are unemployed, or seeking employment in certain practice areas.

However, that does not mean that all recruiters feel this way or that there are no recruiters who will work with you.  It may be that you are looking in the wrong places.

Sit down and make two lists:  one of your experience and skills in a short, condensed form and one of your career preferences.  Type these up in a concise, one-page letter that you can include with your resume.  This will help you talk to recruiters about your skills and your career goals quickly and weed out recruiters that simply cannot help you.

Now is also a good time to see if there may be glaring problems with your CV.   Were you disciplined by a bar association or denied licensure for some reason?  If so, you may find that recruiters are shying away but could promote your resume to a law firm with a good explanation of what happened.  Never be afraid to tell the truth; most recruiters have seen various problems with attorneys and may have unique ways of handling your issues.

The Keys To Finding a Good Recruiter

It is very possible that recruiters simply do not know that you are looking for a job, especially if you are unemployed.  Contacting a recruiter with your resume may be the easiest way to get your name and face out to potential employers, particularly the decision-makers in the firm.  Finding a good recruiter can be difficult; you could rely on the recommendations of those who have successfully worked with recruiters or research the web to review recruiting firms' web sites and reviews.

A good attorney recruiter will help you find employment by matching you with existing law firm jobs.  Many recruiters have access to information about jobs that are not necessarily available through normal channels.  By helping aspiring attorneys find jobs with top firms as well as "boutique" law practices, attorney recruiters can be a valuable resource, especially for attorneys who are just beginning a job search and are not sure where to look for the right type of employment.

Rifkin Consulting is proud to work with attorneys who face many types of challenges in finding the perfect jobs.  For many years, Rifkin Consulting has helped California attorneys find the right jobs with the best law firms and has helped employers identify legal talent.  Rifkin Consulting also works with attorneys who are currently employed in order to help them make lateral moves and improve their career prospects. 

What’s on the Back of Your Business Card?

Part 1; What Does It Say About You As a Person?

Our business cards serve a variety of purposes, all relating to marketing.  In the United States, we typically use our business card(s) for introductory purposes – informative, if you will.  Its primary purpose is to inform the recipient about our name, nature of our business and contact information.   Sometimes it’s perused – but frequently it’s discarded once a meeting is completed.  Modern technology now offers a myriad of methods for scanning the information and adding it to a CMS.

I believe that it takes a good deal more thought – and is much more challenging – to be able to articulate what the back of your business card would say….WHO are you?  Although you’re unlikely to include this personal information on the back of your card, it is really fundamental to understanding:

  • Why you do what you do
  • How you do what you do
  • What people don’t know about you (that you might wish they did)

In fact, this level of self-awareness should be periodically evaluated because we change

Question: If you were drafting text for the back of your card, what might it reveal?  Are you a charitable soul who takes great pleasure in making others’ lives better?  Do you sing opera in the shower?  Are you enjoying writing poetry that no one will ever read, but doing so makes your soul sing?  Is gourmet cooking your favorite form of exercise?  Are you an avid reader of mystery novels?  Based on your answer(s), are you spiritual, philosophical, logical methodical, pragmatic, impulsive, athletic…?  Sometimes seeing our “personal profile” in black and white reminds us of what’s important to us – and also what makes us unique.  In a world where we frequently are over-extended in so many ways, this is truly a purposeful exercise!

The Next Step:  It’s often said that one’s personal life and business are a reflection of each other….is this true of you?  Do you do what you love – or what you need to do to get a paycheck (probably what most people do)?  If you are among the latter group, can you take this understanding and find ways to incorporate WHO you are into your work?  Will you set aside a day, an hour, an afternoon, or a commute to ponder what would enhance your daily routine to make you feel more complete?  It’s not selfish – it’s caring.  The more satisfied we are with our daily lives, the happier and more content those around us will be.  Enjoy the journey!

How Attorney Partner Placements Have Changed Since 2007

As an attorney search consultant, I believe that partner placements and legal recruiting have become increasingly difficult - and different - during the last five years.  The primary reason for this is that as the economy took a drastic turn, many partners' portable books of business did also.  As a result, they were faced with two very difficult and contradictory situations: (1) without significant business they may have gotten the "wink and the nod" that they should seek work elsewhere, and/or (2) making a lateral move was difficult because their portable business had diminished.  Firms are more reluctant over the last few years to take a "gamble" on partners who previously did well.

Additionally, they significantly raised the required book of "verifiable" business before considering adding them to the firm.  Whereas 1 million in portable business used to be a sought-after number, for many large firms that has been raised to 2 million in portable business.  Smaller firms generally tend to want to see candidates in at least the $400K-$500K range.

An additional change that I've seen, and continue to observe, is with attorneys who were previously "service partners".  These attorneys often did not do business development, nor were they encouraged to do so, because there was enough work from other partners.  Sometimes it was even discouraged.

Unfortunately, when the economy experienced a downturn and the work was no longer plentiful, these senior attorneys who were not self-supporting were often told to find other work.  Again, the lack of portable business was a harsh reality that has continued to plague many.  I have spoken with many attorneys in this situation - some have gone from making huge salaries to just getting by.  They have become a sad casualty of the economy – and the evolution of the law firm model - as a result of the recession.  My sense is that even when the economy rebounds, service partners will be less desirable than previously.  I always advise candidates to do whatever they can to be self-supporting - it's ultimately a matter of survival.

Ask a Recruiter – Part 3; Why Do You Ask Me So Many Questions?

I’ve noticed that the most informed and highly-regarded attorney recruiters want to obtain a lot of information from me.  What if I don’t want to tell them about my salary or why I want to leave my job?  Can’t they just tell me what jobs are available in the market?

Understanding several things about professional recruiters will not only answer these questions, but will also enhance your overall recruiting experience.

  • Recruiters are compensated by the law firm (client) – not the attorney candidate.
  • Reputation, integrity and information are an attorney recruiters’ most valuable assets.
  • Relationships should be established that are based on trust, candor and good communication.

Given that recruiters are compensated by the clients, it’s crucial that we carefully screen candidates for important information; examples of this would be salary, required compensation, ability to relocate, hours regularly billed, and about their evaluations.  In-depth screening helps us determine whether a candidate is a good fit for a particular job, a personality fit for a prospective employer, and helps us to assess whether a candidate will be communicative and forthcoming during the placement process.  This information should be kept in the strictest confidence (at Rifkin Consulting, we take this seriously and have a Privacy Statement on our website.  Read it here

The recruiting process frequently takes a good deal of time.  However, there are often times when we need a timely response from a candidate, such as when scheduling an interview.  If we are working with a candidate who is difficult to track down and does not show genuine interest in exploring opportunities, then it's better to know this early on so that we can direct our efforts on placements that are more likely to move forward and with candidates who are more willing.

Specific job information is rarely shared during a first call or email.  Our insider information is a valuable asset – and recruiters want to feel confident that a candidate will not utilize this information outside of the relationship for self-gain.  Sounds terrible – but it happens.  Therefore, it’s important that we first try to determine whether this job seeker is serious about a job search and willing to be loyal and work together once information is shared.  There are several ways this can be ascertained, such as if the candidate quickly sends a resume other requested materials and information that are crucial to the process.  Additionally, it’s very important for a candidate to provide a list of any submissions that have already been made, so that the recruiter can move forward in an informed manner and not duplicate efforts.  Once a candidate takes advantage of a recruiter or is dishonest, the relationship can rarely be repaired. 

We are your managers, your counselors... facilitating the process on your behalf from beginning to end.  With mutual respect,  the relationship can be rewarding, long-term and successful!

Ask a Recruiter – Part 2; Anybody There?

I have sent my resume to several attorney recruiters and none of them responded.  Couldn’t they have at least said “sorry, not a fit”, “we’ll keep it on file”, or “get lost!”?  Why does it seem like a black hole when I send my resume to inquire about a job?

At Rifkin Consulting, we truly understand your frustration about the general lack of response from many recruiters.  In our office, while we make a concerted effort to respond to every resume that we receive, it’s just not feasible to expect a personal phone call or response in all cases.  Let me explain why, from my perspective…..

Most resumes that recruiters receive are unsolicited.  While this is not unusual, it’s possible for a successful recruiter to receive dozens of resumes each day.  Sometimes, the resumes we receive aren’t even from lawyers (which make us wonder if they even understand where they are sending it!).  Many others are clearly not on point for the job about which they are inquiring.  In any business, time must be used most efficiently in order to be successful – and recruiting is no exception.  Trying to balance this hard cold fact with compassion is not always easy, and a recruiter’s time must necessarily be spent primarily with candidates who they can place. 

Responding to every resume that comes in would take a huge amount of time – and would take away from our efforts and obligations to our active candidates.  Think about your own work day; would you be able to add an extra hour daily to an effort that doesn’t produce business?  No matter how much you wish you could…it’s just not feasible.  Recruiters don’t mean to be rude or lacking in compassion – they just have to prioritize their work as anyone else does.

We review every resume that reaches our desk and screen it carefully for a possible job match now – or in the future.  We try to respond to each – even if to just acknowledge its receipt.  Try not to take it personally if you don’t receive an email or a phone call – we aim for excellence in our profession and are known for good communication with candidates and law firm clients – but there are just so many hours in a day!

Ask a Recruiter - Part 1; Why Won't a Recruiter Work With Me?

"I am a new law school graduate, and I contacted a legal recruiter to help me get a job.  Why won't they work with me?"

Don’t take it personally!  Many recruiters want to be able to help new law school graduates; however, clients will only work with recruiters to hire attorneys with at least one year of post law school experience in a law firm setting.  Why?

There are several reasons that firm clients take this position. 

  • First, since clients compensate recruiters for successful placements (no charge to the attorney), they prefer associates who provide some immediate value given that they already have some training and experience (i.e., can provide even a modicum of immediate hands-on assistance). 
  • Second, it is very costly to train and support a young attorney. Therefore,  an associate with some level of proven ability gives the firm a stronger sense of confidence and reasonable anticipation that he/she will remain with the firm for awhile. 
  • Third, many law firms conduct on-campus interviews [OCI] pursuant to hiring new law school graduates.  This method is often an expedient and cost-efficient way to proactively screen and hire new graduates. 

Additionally, few law firms will use the services of recruiters to hire young attorneys with only clerking experience.  Often law firms and law clerks utilize internal connections to facilitate such hires.

It’s important to understand the aforementioned reasons why an attorney recruiter can’t assist you with your job search if you are a new graduate or Bar-admittee.   You’ll need to be very proactive on your own if you weren’t successful during OCI, or if your school does not participate in OCI recruiting.  Learning about the various venues for networking and research, such as your local Public Law Center, can provide valuable experience as well as leads.  Good luck!

“ 'Tis the Season When Gifts Become Bribes”?

This was my week to drop by and say hello to attorneys and recruiting personnel  in law firms with whom I work all year long - but rarely see.  I like to bring a little something to leave with them to show my appreciation for their business and support throughout the year.  More often than not, it's gourmet chocolate, wine or champagne, in a glittery box and wrapped with a shiny bow.  The gesture always results in a smile, and sometimes I am told that the recipient looks forward to my annual visit...and that makes me  smile! 

Some recruiters I know have told me that they don't give gifts anymore; they don't feel that gifts are appreciated or are a worthwhile expenditure.  After all, mailing is expensive these days and time is money, right?!?  I feel differently - the gesture extends way beyond marketing or expenses - it's about appreciation.   I look forward to this trek all year long - I value these relationships.  "Thank you" can be magical words.

Therefore, it was particularly timely this morning when I read a very straightforward article on the “art” of corporate gift-giving.  Written by a compliance officer, this author presents views from countering sides about what is an appropriate gift to give – if you give a gift at all.

Is corporate gift-giving crafty – or strategic?  Is the gift being given out of generosity or with appreciation? Although gifts are given throughout the year for various reasons, through the years it is still commonly regarded that giving a gift to a valuable client is an accepted method of showing appreciation for one’s loyalty and business.  As competitive as the market is, you might wonder whether the largest and most dramatic gifts are those that turn heads…and get the business.  I believe that there will always be a market for elaborate demonstrations such as cars, box seats to a popular venue, expensive wine and champagne – you name it.  However, for most people I believe it’s about tastefulness, appropriateness and primarily about genuineness.  I am convinced that there’s just no substitute for using good judgment and showing appreciation for our professional relationships!

You may find this helpful - Alexandra provides some “near-universal guidelines based on research that [her] organization TRACE has undertaken for over a decade:

  • Gifts should be modest, tokens of esteem.
  • Ideally, they should bear the corporate logo or reflect the company’s products and they should be provided openly and transparently.
  • Delivering to an office is preferable to sending to a home address.
  • One gift-giving holiday or event should be observed. It doesn’t matter if it’s Diwali, Eid, the Lunar New Year, July 4th, or Christmas, but pick (only) one.
  • Perishable gifts of flowers or food are generally thought to be less risky, in part because they can’t be resold.
  • Give consistently and without regard to pending or recent procurement or other official decisions.
  • Follow corporate policy.
  • Document everything.
  • Give in good faith and without expectation of any quid pro quo.
  • A moderate annual affirmation of both new and longstanding relationships is not a bribe.”

Enjoy developing relationships and gift-giving…there is always an appropriate time and way to say  (and show) “thanks’!

Read the entire article By Alexandra Wrage

How Overqualified Attorney Candidates Can Market Themselves as a Right Fit

Part 2: How Overqualified Attorney Candidates Can Market Themselves as a Right Fit

The key is to be able to justify the employer’s consideration. An attorney candidate should be able to give the law firm a reasonable explanation for considering the adjustment.  If a candidate is confident that he/she can do so, then “presentation” is the next hurdle to overcome.

In order for a job seeker to assure potential employers that they can adjust to the role and be a good fit, they should:

  • Prepare a succinct cover letter that emphasizes why you are interested in this particular position and how your skills can benefit this specific company.
  • Work with a professional to ensure that your resume is spot-on: form, experience, skills required for the job.  This is particularly important since many companies today use online applicant tracking systems to review candidates electronically – many resumes are automatically eliminated during the screening process if they don’t contain the relevant “buzzwords”.  Caution – it’s important to sound genuine, as well as to be honest, in your representations.
  • Present your industry knowledge and transferrable skills clearly and concisely to the employer, with specific examples of situations where you were successful.  These examples should be relevant to the potential employer’s business, goals and culture.  Quantify your successes or accomplishments, where possible.  If presented with the opportunity to interview, preparation and presentation are crucial, and must be consistent with your written application. Add something here about the importance of both articulation and non-verbal communication.

Overqualified attorney candidates are up against a hurdle in the job market.  But with a little moxy, some preparation and determination, this is a hurdle that is possible to overcome. 


Part I: Understanding the Challenge

Why do hiring managers care one way or another if a job candidate is overqualified or over-educated?  I think it’s important to understand some of the reasons that employers are reluctant to hire overqualified people.  Uniquely, as an attorney recruiter, I work with both employers and attorney candidates to make the best professional match.  We assist attorneys seeking more fulfilling employment that meets their long term goals.  Employers use our services to identify, qualify, attract and engage stellar attorney talent to meet critical needs in their organizations.

Law firms are often reluctant to hire over-qualified people for several reasons.  One of these is that lateral hiring is typically based on year of law school graduation and affects track for promotion to  partnership.  Additionally, “lateral level” usually reflects compensation and experience.  It’s easy to see how adjustment of lateral level may cause colleagues to become resentful and result in conflict in the workplace.   Alternatively, candidates themselves often end up resentful, as resentment can also result from (1) working on tasks that are too simplistic or unchallenging, or (2) feeling underpaid over time.

We also see that overqualified people are often from a different generation and, therefore, may have different work ethic issues and expectations than the Millenials.  Some of our firm clients will consider a lateral adjustment of 1-2 years (based on year of graduation from law school, which is the gauge for our industry).  However, if they go much beyond that, the aforementioned issues are likely to arise and the result is discord in the workplace environment. Overqualified candidates should seriously consider these possible career pitfalls before applying. 

Part 2: Overcoming the Hurdle of Being Over-Qualified (stay tuned...)

Attorney’s Guide To Personal Branding

A close friend of mine specializes in branding and marketing, so I often hear about the importance of a company having a strong brand.  Equally as important – maybe even more so – is personal branding.  Personal branding follows you wherever you work, live and play. 

The latest trends in business dress or grooming are rarely appropriate for the workplace.  While geographic location, type of firm and general company policy may be casual, be aware that the business suit is still the gold standard, and that there are times when it’s best to transcend business casual attire.  It’s not as much an issue of formality as it is one of impression; a client wants to feel confident that it is represented by an attorney who exudes authority and stability.

Your personal brand is how you present yourself to the world.  Personal branding goes beyond a blog, Bio or website.  It is also gleaned from Facebook, Linkedin and other social networking venues.    Your personal brand extends to your personal grooming, demeanor and even etiquette.  Although the term “etiquette’ is not used very often these days, good manners leave a strong impression with employers, potential clients and also possible referral sources.  Venture further in to your private life, and you will realize that it is also an impression that you give family, friends and acquaintances.

It’s extremely worthwhile to give significant thought regarding how you can stay true to yourself, while also consistently strengthening your personal brand.

By Diane Rifkin, Esq.



Rifkin Consulting assists employers seeking to hire top lawyers, and attorney candidates looking to work for highly-regarded law firms and companies.


How do you react at work when your job no longer excites you?  At Rifkin Consulting, we frequently receive calls from attorneys who are experiencing lulls in work, or a change in personnel, that affects their daily level of satisfaction. Sometimes these attorneys think that moving to another firm is the answer – and it often is.  However, during both economic downturns and even the normal business cycle, stagnation can occur.  Determining which the cause of your discontent is crucial, and will help you implement a course of action.

If you determine that changes have occurred in your firm that will prevent you from advancing long term, then exploring your options is the answer.  Rifkin Consulting thoroughly discusses the factors that contribute to attorney dissatisfaction and helps candidates desiring change to navigate the recruiting process. 

Should you determine that the lull is temporary and things will improve, find ways to beat back boredom on the job?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. DIVERSIFY AND DEVELOP SUPPLEMENTARY SKILLS; Such skills can be gained through courses that will enhance your knowledge, provide networking opportunities, assuming a leadership role outside of work, and reaching out to other departments for new and challenging matters.
  2. VALUE OF LIFE OUTSIDE OF WORK; Do you live to work – or work to live? Exploring new hobbies, physical fitness routines, and rewarding outside charitable activities can provide added value to your life, and helps to keep boredom at work I perspective.
  3. SEEK NEW CHALLENGES; Speak with the appropriate parties about your desire to excel and accept challenging matters.  Expressing enthusiasm for projects that will stretch your abilities and present skills can set you apart from co-workers.
  4. TAKE A BREAK; make a list of things that you have wanted to do for a long time – whether it’s a vacation to some new destination, volunteer work, visiting old friends and family, or reading a good book. Once relaxed, it’s much easier to better evaluate your situation objectively AND to face it with renewed enthusiasm.

Evaluate your situation and find a way to get enthused again!


Above the Law’s Susan Moon wrote a thought-provoking and practical article “Should You Do a Clerkship If You Don’t Want to Practice Litigation?”  At Rifkin Consulting, we have worked with many attorneys who clerked either immediately after law school - or – a few years into practice.  There are two basic issues to consider (1) is a clerkship valuable even if you don’t want to practice litigation?  (2) when is the best time to do a clerkship?

Some attorneys opine that a clerkship is not worth one year of your life unless you want to litigate.  Apparently, they have the believe that a transactional attorney has nothing to learn from the clerkship experience and that the time could be better spent learning to draft contracts, etc.  A clerkship, however, can provide insight into the workings of the court, including how a judge may rule on issues.  Additionally, Susan Moon rightfully points out that if an attorney eventually goes in house, the position will often include litigation management responsibilities.  This is one of many ways in which familiarity with the court system can be valuable.

Other attorneys have a different take on the clerkship experience and, based on years of attorney recruiting, I agree that there is value and long term benefit.  When is the best time to do a clerkship?  The answer depends on your goals and, depending on the economy, the availability of jobs. 

If jobs are readily available, a clerkship immediately after law school may prove interesting, but it can be more challenging to get your first law firm job.  One reason is that many firms will have already brought on junior associates through OCI and offers, so the firm and the junior associates are already familiar with each other.  Additionally, many firms do not compensate clerks per their lateral year, as they would with an associate attorney with previous law firm experience. This hurdle is easier to overcome if the attorney waits a few years after law school to practice.  ”ATL columnist David Mowry, who’s completed two federal clerkships, also recommends that you wait until a few years after law school to clerk, “so you don’t take such a hit paywise. By waiting a few years, you’d be compensated with the higher salary that clerks coming in with experience are paid. Plus, you’ll have the added advantage of living more comfortably off some of the income you made prior to clerking.”

Case in point: One of my strongest candidates worked for a top New York law firm for two years and then completed a Federal Court clerkship.  She enjoyed the experience tremendously.  Importantly, there were three additional benefits to her strategy.  First, she became extremely marketable to prestigious firms (receiving an offer at nearly ever firm that interviewed her).  Second, although she did not have the State Bar, she had enough years of experience under her belt that she was only required to take the Attorney portion of the California Bar exam.  Third, she was able to utilize the services of a recruiter to get back into a law firm environment; most firms will not use a recruiter to hire a clerk without law firm experience.  This proved to be a highly successful strategy for her, and the process overall was much smoother than if she had clerked right out of law school.

Click here to read more about this subject. 

By Diane Rifkin, Esq.
President, Rifkin Consulting
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Rifkin Consulting assists attorneys with finding fulfilling employment, and works closely with employers seeking to hire stellar attorney talent to fill critical positions in their organizations.

Law firms turn to Rifkin Consulting for counsel regarding attorney retention, compensation analysis, and strategic growth to maintain a competitive edge in the legal market.