Providing Insight and Strategic Advice about Legal Recruiting
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.
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.
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!
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