Providing Insight and Strategic Advice about Legal Recruiting
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.
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...
“This material is reproduced from the CEBblog™ entry, 10 Steps to an Outstanding LinkedIn Profile, (http://blog.ceb.com/2015/01/30/10-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, CEB.com).”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
THE BIGGEST MISTAKES STUDENTS MAKE; THE SHORT LIST
REMEMBER - You are smart and have the technological savvy – but THEY have the jobs. Educate yourself about these differences, and show respect for them.
THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME QUESTIONS FOLLOWING THE PRESENTATION
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?
I hope this information has been helpful. Please check back for additions and modifications, and visit our Professional Resources page at www.rifkinconsulting.com .
PART 2; HOW TO GET STARTED NETWORKING
MAKE CONNECTIONS, DEVELOP THE RELATIONSHIPS
I. SOCIAL NETWORKING AND RELATED VENUES
LinkedIn: enjoy a 360 degree resume – for free!
TWITTER & FACEBOOK
II. IN PERSON NETWORKING
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.
VENUES FOR NETWORKING
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?
NETWORK WITH INTENTION; 3 PARTS TO THIS PRESENTATION
WHY YOU MUST NETWORK; THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
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
To be continued in Part 2: How To Get Started
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
"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.
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!
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:
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 http://www.law.com/corporatecounsel/PubArticleCC.jsp?id=1202581247691
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:
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...)
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.
LEGAL INSIGHT. PREMIER TALENT.
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:
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.
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. www.rifkinconsulting.com