Using a Legal Recruiter in the New Year

Using a Legal Recruiter in the New Year

2017 is just around the corner. Here are a couple of tips on how to effectively use a recruiter for your next job search in the new year.

Recruiters can’t help everyone. Recruiters have niches and specific clients. Learn what those are and you can better understand if this recruiter is right for you. If your recruiter doesn’t do temporary or contract placements, it’s futile to ask for those positions. If your recruiter doesn’t work with personal injury or insurance defense firms, no amount of following up with him/her will help. Understand that recruiters using an executive search model are looking for the best candidates for any given position. Recruiters in a law registry are looking for anyone. Executive search-based recruiters get paid to find an exact match to the job description. They also get paid to make judgment calls. It’s okay to question a recruiter and point out where your experience lies on the experience spectrum, but even great recruiters can’t force a square peg in a round hole. Recruiters work best when exposed to the “real” you. Be honest and forthright with your recruiter about your skills and what you like and don’t like about a firm/job. Think of recruiters as a financial advisor or doctor – the more you keep them in the dark about who you are and what you really need, the less effective they will be. Exaggerating credentials or accomplishments wont’ get better results; it just skews the data used to find a good fit for you. Be responsive. When you have engaged a recruiter and a recruiter calls or emails because they need information, they usually need it RIGHT NOW. Make a point to call them back. Your delay might reflect poorly on your candidacy. Think about what you need to accept a position BEFORE you see the offer letter. Waiting to decide if you are willing to take a job until they offer it is a bad strategy. Most recruiters will push you to know what you would need to accept a job long before you ever receive a job offer. Do the mental gymnastics to determine what would make you accept a new job BEFORE you interview and use the interview process to see if the job meets your needs. Keeping the recruiter informed as to your needs removes the need for unnecessary interviews. Recruiters are not resume-writing services. Nor are they spellcheckers. Do this work on your own. Guard your resume and who represents you. Don’t work with a recruiter who asks for any sort of exclusivity in representing you (two caveats to this: first, tell your recruiter about other opportunities that you are pursuing; next, know that once you have given a recruiter permission to submit your resume for a position, that specific company/firm should be the recruiter’s exclusive opportunity). Importantly, be sure that a recruiter seeks your permission each and every time personal information is released. While not exhaustive, we hope that this list is a starting point for how to use a recruiter most effectively. We try to help as many people as we can, but the truth is that we can’t help everyone. We do hope that everyone feels that they were treated fairly and with respect – ever recruiter should strive for that. Regardless, when used properly and for the right candidates, recruiters are a great way to find your new position and advance your career.

Happy new year from Sand Search!

Although Limited Experience, Recent Grads Can Still Make The Most Of Their Resume

We are hearing from a lot recent law school graduates lately and although the market has improved, jobs are still scarce for the majority of these folks. Creating a compelling resume can be a challenge when you do not have practical legal experience. While a law firm clerkship or interning for a judge can help, the truth is many hiring attorneys or recruiting directors do not give this much weight. So what can you do when your experience is not a big selling point? Try to make your resume stand out in other ways.

While hopefully the old school, heavy stock, colored resume paper is not coming back; you can still use some tasteful graphics to make your resume stand out. Perhaps some color headings, shading a separate column for achievements, or simply adding links to work-related social media sites would help.

A creative resume may not get you the job per se, but it may draw enough attention to move it to the top of others with similar experience so why not spend an extra few minutes and make it stand out.

Don’t Let Guilt Weigh You Down

Guilt can be a very powerful force. Some attorneys will trudge into the same firm or company day-in and day-out knowing that it is not where they want to be – just to avoid the guilt of leaving.

You have applied for jobs, interviewed and finally came through with an offer on a position that truly excites you and the only is thing in your way at this point is giving notice. For some people this is relatively easy (they may actually look forward to it); to others the idea of disappointing their current employer is gut-wrenching. A few things to keep in mind: first, very few people actually work for one employer their entire career so odds are the person you dread giving notice to has done the same thing at some point too; second, the anticipation is much worse than the actual delivery. In fact, people often feel a tremendous sense of relief as soon as the words leave their mouth.

Life is too short to tolerate a less than ideal situation just because you might feel guilty about leaving. If you really care about your employer (the people you work with that is) you would assume the admiration goes both ways and that they would want you to be happy. You should also remember that this is just a job, and that there is nothing stopping you from staying in touch with your colleagues.

Move quickly on high-demand candidates!

Move quickly on high-demand candidates!

While we were in the recession, legal employers had the luxury of time. There were ample candidates, and with few opportunities, firms could take their time when making hiring decisions. It seemed that no matter how long they took to extend an offer, the candidate was excited to receive it.

Fast forward a few years and the market has changed. Skilled candidates are being courted by multiple employers. Top candidates are getting multiple offers, and others are being much more selective with their decisions. As a result, firms that can’t make hiring decisions quickly and present a competitive offer in a timely fashion are losing out to firms that have sped up their hiring process.

As a result, firms and corporate legal departments should revisit their hiring process. How quickly are you responding to candidates? How long are you making them wait between interviews? When are you letting them know that you would like to extend an offer?

Even if the delay is only a few days, that can feel like an eternity to a candidate who is hearing from other firms in the meantime. A quick phone call or email with an expected timeline of the interview/hiring process can often manage a candidate’s concern that interest is waning. Also, this update may buy the firm time to extend an offer when other offers may be on the table or imminently forthcoming.

In the recruiting business, we say “time kills deals.” It seems that this is more true than ever in 2016. Remember, if you aren’t quickly moving a top candidate through your hiring process, in all likelihood, another firm may be trying to scoop them up!

Using a Recruiter To Focus on What Matters: Your Attorneys

Using a Recruiter To Focus on What Matters: Your Attorneys

Some people love cars. My grandfather, it seems, loves tires. Every time I see him, he asks about my tires. How is the tread? What brand are they? How are they in the snow? He is sure that tires are the single most important part on the car.

My wife is an excellent cook. She meticulously scours the grocery stores and co-ops in town for the freshest organic ingredients. She makes her own spice blends. She rarely uses anything from a can and avoids all shortcuts when preparing a meal.

I love coffee. Whenever possible, I track down the best beans from the local roaster and to take home and make a great pot of coffee. Pre-bagged coffee that has been on the shelf for who-knows-how-long is something I try not to buy.

And yet, people spend money and focus on the wrong things all of the time. They demand nicer floor mats instead of better tires. They want processed food for convenience rather than cooking form scratch. They want quick pre-loaded coffee pods and fancy coffee machines rather than focusing on the only ingredients that affect the taste of coffee (beans and water). Why? Because sometimes it is easier.

Easier is fine, but what happens when we focus on what is easier/cheaper/faster for your law firm or legal department? Is ‘easier’ and ‘good enough’ what you are looking for? Probably not.

The most important parts of a law firm are the lawyers you begin with. Not the clients or the systems or the policies or even the office. Great people make everything easier. Settling for less than a targeted candidate search may be easier, but it won’t likely lead to the best candidates. Those that aren’t actively looking (“passive candidates”) will never respond to an ad. Using a recruiter is the only way to reach these candidates and make sure that you are finding the most important thing for your firm: the right attorney.

A Time for Reflection

This time of year often calls for personal and professional reflection. It is a good time to show thanks and acknowledge your achievements over the past year. It is also good time to re-evaluate your employment situation.

Loyalty is certainly an admirable trait but if you are not willing to at least consider other jobs, you might be missing a real chance for career advancement. Of course the grass is not always greener elsewhere, but you will never know unless you are willing explore other options from time to time. There may not be such thing as the absolute perfect job, but you might be able to improve certain aspects of your career that are particularly important to you.

So ask yourself if you are just thankful to have survived another year on the job or if you have plateaued in your current employment? If so, it is an excellent time to consider a change because there is no better time for a job search. People are on the move in the first quarter of the year and businesses of have positions to fill so it is a perfect time to explore your options.

The Holiday Season Is Upon Us – It Is Time To Think About 2017 Hiring!

The Holiday Season Is Upon Us – It Is Time To Think About 2017 Hiring!

“No organization can do better than the people it has.” -Peter Drucker, Management Guru (1909-2005)

As 2016 winds down (how is it Thanksgiving time already??), if your organization is looking to add an attorney in the near future, the time to start looking is NOW. Law firms should start thinking about strategic hiring at the associate level and opportunistic hiring at the partner level. Associates are most open to hearing about opportunities in the new year and partners tend to lose the golden handcuffs holding them at their current firm early in the first quarter of the year.

And as Harvey Mackay says, let this be your acid test when considering new employees: “ask yourself how you would feel about the candidate working for your competition instead of you .”

Have a great holiday season from all of us at Sand Search Partners!

Change Brings Opportunity – Are You Ready To Make The Most Of It?

Change Brings Opportunity – Are You Ready To Make The Most Of It?

No matter what side of the political spectrum you reside, the outcome of this presidential election seems to have caught most people by surprise. One of the overriding themes for the prevailing side was the desire for change. Whether you like it or not, change is ultimately unavoidable and sometimes necessary. Change also brings opportunity. The key to making the most of the opportunity, is to understand the underlining reason for that change and react appropriately.

Change can affect those in the legal field in a variety of way. For example, change can come in the form of a client seeking new representation; an associate given the chance to make an impression with partner who typically looks elsewhere; or new responsibilities assigned to in-house counsel. In these examples it is easy to see the potential opportunity resulting from change, but to make the most of it is necessary to understand the underlining reason for the change. Perhaps the client did not feel like they were getting good customer service. Maybe the partner was not happy with the work quality of previous associates. The new responsibilities for in-counsel may be due to downsizing and a need for greater efficiency. Understanding the “why” greatly enhances the likely of making the most of the opportunity otherwise you may unwittingly cause further change.

Of course, once you understand the underlining reason for change it is equally important to make the most of it by working diligently to meet or exceed expectations. Don’t forget, your opportunity can quickly go to someone else if you fail to grasp it.

You're Welcome

You're Welcome

This was a post from several years ago, but in reviewing the old posts, I realized that as of the first week in October 2016, the exact same thing holds true – that I’ve received only four messages of thanks from people who I have met with or helped. Here is the old post:

Four.

That’s the number of thank you notes I’ve received this year from all of the people I’ve met with to help with their job search. Four thank you notes (and it is nearly November). I speak to many people a day and meet with scores of people each month – and FOUR sent me a thank you note.

Sure, a few might have sent an email referencing some appreciation, but only four have taken the time to write something on a piece of paper and mail it. I’m belaboring this point because I think it is telling – I remember the four people who sent me something this year. The person I met that Thursday afternoon in January…not so much.

Always send a thank you note after you meet with someone in relation to your job search. If you are a belt-and-suspenders person, send an email after the meeting and follow-up with a written note that will arrive a few days later (and will serve as a good reminder to get back to you). You will make an impression and the note is a simple, polite reminder that you are still waiting to hear from them.

You Don't Have To Settle

You spend most of your day (and too often a good part of your evening) at work so why settle for a job that does not fulfill your professional or personal objectives? There are constant reminders in the news and in our personal lives just how short life can be so do yourself a favor and at least explore opportunities that might be more fulfilling.

Yes, there is always risk involved with a job change but rarely is there true reward without taking some chances. Too often people fall into the trap of complacency because they don’t think things could be better elsewhere or are “comfortable” with the dissatisfaction of their current job versus the uncertainty of a new job. Of course, every new job posting does not contain the golden ticket for happiness or even necessarily address everything you seek. However, if you are 25% happier in your job and your work constitutes the majority of your waking hours, then even a seemingly marginal change can make a huge difference in your overall happiness.

It is very easy to get caught up in the minutia of your job and just ignore the frustration that you experience on a regular basis. The answer to finding more happiness may be out there but you will never know if you are willing to settle for less.

It’s time to think about what you actually DO as an attorney

“I’m an attorney. More specifically, I’m a litigator. Even more specifically, I’m a products defense attorney.” Great – that’s the type of law that you practice, but what do you DO?

The general type of law that you practice is important to start a discussion about a new job, but it doesn’t answer the question of what you do – which is imperative to think about when contemplating a job change.

As a legal recruiter, we always ask exactly that – what do you do? It’s an insightful question that often goes overlooked by candidates.

Thinking about your job in terms of what you actually do is important because it forces you to evaluate your specific skillset when considering a new position. It can force you to see deficiencies in your resume and can get you out of a career rut.

We recently worked with an attorney at a big firm. She is a litigator at a large, national firm and for the past seven years she has been comfortable doing what she has been asked to do – reviewing documents and researching case law. She was recently passed over for partnership and is now wondering why she isn’t attractive to other employers. She never stopped to ask what she actually did. She assumed she was a litigator. She assumed that other firms would always want to hire her because she was “litigating”. Because she never really thought about what a litigator actually does (compared with what she actually did on a day to day basis), she never thought to expand her skillset to make herself more marketable. She also learned a powerful lesson (and the topic of a future blog post) – don’t rely on your firm to advance your career; YOU need to make sure that you have the skills you need to advance.

Had this attorney taken some time to reflect on her career – that she was still doing important work, but not increasingly complicated work on litigation matters, she would have realized that what she was doing was a thin slice of what a litigator does. She was not, in fact, a seasoned litigator and her value to other firms was severely diminished as a result.

What could she have done? Maybe she could have taken on more responsibility at her firm. Maybe she could have tried to market her practice to get some of her own clients (of which she could have taken on a larger litigation role). Maybe she could have realized that her firm was making her increasingly unmarketable and tried to find a new job earlier. Whatever the case may be, the best time to think about what you actually do is NOW – not later.

Another very common example of how not understanding what someone DOES can affect their chance at career change comes in the legal resume. Too often people let their job title stand alone on the resume, not putting ample thought into parsing out what skills they have learned and what accomplishments they have had in their current (or past) roles. Simply putting “litigation attorney” on your resume doesn’t make you competent in all facets of litigation. Think about all areas of your practice and make sure they are clearly laid out in the resume. Essentially, this is forcing you to answer the question of “what do I do?”.

As many of us ramp our work schedules up with summer (sadly) behind us, take some time to really think about the question of what you do if you want to advance your career!

Compensation in the Open Market

Compensation for attorneys can be determined by a number of objective and subjective factors including tenure, quality of work product, profitability, and information gathered from salary studies. You may know how your compensation stacks up to others at your firm or even what people make at other firms, but do know if it is comparable to what you would make in the open market?

A lot of attorneys have no idea if their compensation measures up to their true market value. By true market value, I am referring to how much you could expect to earn if you decided to explore other options in the legal market – not what a typical attorney makes after so many years of experience. Some people are actually making more than they would in the open market because they are currently being rewarded for factors that are not given the same consideration by prospective employers. Yes, loyalty and teamwork is valued by all employers, but it is often measurable attributes such as business generation and working receipts that carry the most weight in the open market. This is especially true in a post-recession economy where the ability to generate revenue is becoming expected of all.

If you are working hard to generate business and starting to see real revenue growth as a result, you should ask yourself how much of your potential income is going to others who are not as productive (especially those who make no effort). There may be other factors that make your current work experience so positive that the potential of lost income is okay, but if you could have a similar experience and make considerably more money elsewhere it might be worth your time to explore your true market value.

Timing is everything when it comes to conflicts. Wait until you are cleared.

Timing is everything when it comes to conflicts. Wait until you are cleared.

Congratulations! You have just received a job offer and are poised to make a great career move. You are excited to transition your practice to the new firm and have given notice to your current firm that you will be leaving. Unfortunately, conflicts haven’t been cleared with your new firm and, if there is an insurmountable conflict, you are going to be left without a job. That’s a big mistake. Don’t give your notice too soon. It is a pitfall that far too many attorneys ignore.

Client conflicts are rare, but they do occur. The best advice is to wait to give your notice until you have officially cleared conflicts at the new firm. Never give notice until this process has been completed.

The dog days of summer

The dog days of summer are a perfect time of year to assess your current employment situation. For many, late summer offers a chance to take a breathe from a hectic work year – whether you find yourself with some free time in the office or are out vacationing. Yes, loyalty is an admirable trait but if you are not willing to at least consider other jobs, you might be missing a real chance for career advancement.

Of course the grass is not always greener elsewhere, but you will never know unless you are willing explore other options from time to time. There may not be such thing as the absolute perfect job, but you might be able to improve certain aspects of your career that are particularly important to you.

So after some self-reflection, ask yourself if you are content with your current job or is it less than what you had hoped at this point in your career? If you hoped for more, now is an excellent time to consider a change because you may actually have time to update your resume, start networking, and perhaps test the market. Even if you are waiting for a year-end bonus, it is not too soon to start the process.

It’s A Matter of Perception – The Role of the Recruiter

The old cliché is that you should think about a problem from the perspective of the other side to gain a full understanding of the situation. Nowhere is that more true than in a job search/hiring situation. Too often deals are lost because of the problem of perception.

When a candidate applies and/or interviews with an employer, they are excited about the position. They check their email and voicemail for updates, excitedly hoping for news. If they don’t hear anything from the firm for an extended period of time, they assume the worst (that they are no longer being considered for the position) and often will come away with negative thoughts about the employer and may generally “reimagine” their perception of the firm to be one where the attorney wouldn’t have wanted the position. “It was for the best,” attorneys will often remark. From the candidate’s perspective, the process went from one of hope and excitement to an awful experience (and one which they will remember for a long time).

On the employer side, they might believe that interviews went fine but the firm just got busy and hasn’t had time to respond to the candidates that interviewed. Without nefarious intentions, they simply stopped/slowed the hiring process until there was more time to move forward. Form the firm’s perspective, everything is fine. They can’t understand why a candidate would have been turned off by the process.

The person who is in the best place to step in and help each side see the process from the others’ perspective is the recruiter. They can calm the candidate and nudge the employer to move the process forward (or at least communicate their updated timetable to the attorney). This is one of the many reasons that both attorneys and legal employers turn to a recruiter. If you find yourself in a similar position just take a deep breath and try to see it from the other side’s perspective.

Timing Is Critical For Employers Too

We know that timing is a key component to a job search but often think of it in terms of an applicant or candidate. The truth is timing can be just as critical for an employer looking to make a hire. Law firms and companies are often in competition for top attorneys – from an exceptional real estate associate to the partner-level attorney with a significant client base. If you can’t get to the offer in stage in a relatively short period of time, you may be missing out on some of the best people for your firm or business.

The legal market is fairly consistent in terms of hiring in that some areas are coveted more than others at certain times. For example, lately we have a seen a big push for securities attorneys (both law firm and in-house) and there are not many in the market. Someone with the requisite skills and experience is likely to have multiple options. Although every firm or company would like to think they offer something unique, to a candidate the opportunities can appear very similar so it might come down to who is able to extend an offer first. The intent may not be to force a candidate to make a decision but it can work in your favor since they know the offer might not stand too long. Likewise, the job search process can be very demanding and time consuming so many people would like to get it over with as soon as possible so they can just focus on work.

In a market that is quickly becoming competitive again for top legal talent, firms and companies should assess whether their hiring process is efficient enough not to jeopardize a hire solely based on timing. In fact, they may have seen first-hand how this can work against them. The key then is to take steps to eliminate this correctable disadvantage to become more competitive in the marketplace.

Summer Associates (and ALL Attorneys) – Be Wary of Social Media

Summer Associates (and ALL Attorneys) – Be Wary of Social Media

It’s that time of the year again. Summer associates arrive at the bigger firms and get put on projects. Sometimes those projects are exciting. The files that these soon-to-be-attorneys are handed might even have really juicy facts. Ooooh – can you believe it? He did what?! She responded how?! “Ping!” Oh, that’s just my Twitter/Facebook/email/text account. And that’s how problems start.

This post really doesn’t relate to legal resumes or your job search, but it is something that is incredibly important to think about – both for law students and for the attorneys that hire them. We’re on social media and can see that this is happening and thought it was worth a moment of your time.

Never before has the legal community faced such a high risk of confidential client information leaking out. It used to be that if details were to leak out, someone would have to pick up the phone or drag out a Banker’s box of documents. Not anymore. Not with Twitter and Facebook. Not with email and text messaging.

If you are a summer associate, think twice (or three times) before sending any information out about what you are working on at your law firm. If “I’m review documents” just isn’t exciting enough, think about not sending that Tweet. Going beyond that to say that you are working on a file for Company X and are reviewing documents (or giving even more detail) may violate client confidences. Your best course of action is to resist the temptation to micro-blog about your summer associate experience altogether.

Prepare For Anything When Interviewing

While it may be impossible to literally prepare for any and all interview questions or scenarios, you should do your best based on available information and at least be mentally prepared for the rest.

With an upcoming interview, your first priority is to do your homework. Thoroughly review the job description, any available information about the firm or company posted on the web, and bios on the people key to the job and interview process. You should also review your own resume and any supporting material you provided so you are ready to address specific questions about the material you provided. These are things within your preparedness control and the employer often is aware of it, which means your interview process could end quickly if you are not up to speed on easily accessed information.

The trickier part of interviewing is preparing for questions or scenarios for which you have no or limited access to information or control. This might be a case study posed to you by an interviewer regarding something you may or may not have experienced in the past. It might be dealing with a quirky interviewer who keeps going off-point during the interview. While you may not be able to prepare a well thought out response for everything, you can prepare for how you respond in terms of your demeanor. The key is to anticipate difficult questions or scenarios mentally so you are not completely caught off-guard when one comes your way. Often times, the interviewer is not as interested in the answer itself, but how you process information and your composure in responding.

What You Do Today Can Affect Your Job Search Tomorrow!

I was reminded today of the importance of protecting your reputation as a lawyer. I was contacted by someone who wanted to apply for an attorney opportunity at a firm where she was a summer associate many years ago. Normally this is a great opportunity to work with a firm that is at least vaguely-familiar with your work – even if it was many years since you worked there. Unfortunately, knowing that this wasn’t where she wanted to work, this attorney put in minimal effort and received less-than-glowing reviews of her summer performance. Everyone was happy when the summer ended.

Fast forward a dozen years and now this firm is in a position to hire someone with her exact skillset, and her clients would be well serviced by this once-rebuked firm. It’s too bad that her actions many years ago likely tainted the well for what could have been a great fit.

The moral of the story: do your best work, or at the very least do what is needed to maintain your good reputation. Had this attorney done even a marginal job years ago, this attorney might be able to approach this firm about an opportunity.

Don’t Let Modesty Get In The Way

Attorneys are generally conservative by nature when it comes describing their practice. Whether it is the idea of promoting your skills and abilities or the potential value of your practice, most attorneys will take a modest approach. Yes, managing expectations is important but being too conservative can really be to your detriment.

It is okay to list your strengths and accomplishments right in your resume. Likewise, you should absolutely stress these things in an interview if given the opportunity. The key is to express and instill confidence without giving the impression of outright cockiness. For any given open position you can expect to be competing against dozens, if not hundreds, of other candidates. Distinguishing yourself from the pack is essential to have a real chance of moving forward. Academics and experience alone are typically not enough when there could many others with comparable attributes.

When it comes to describing portable business, attorneys are also notoriously conservative in their estimations. This is a tricky spot because you never know what clients will move and how much business they will send, so the tendency is to play it safe and underestimate. Again, managing expectations is important here but taking it too far could completely end the conversation or have a significant effect on compensation negotiations.

The market is slowly improving, but when you know there will be stiff competition for desired positions why not give yourself a boost by demonstrating why you are the right person for the job. Modesty is a not bad thing – you just don’t want it to hold you back.