- On October 25, 2020
Before I became a legal recruiter, I was a big law associate and in-house counsel at public tech companies. I knew legal recruiters existed because they would call me, but I didn’t quite understand what they did, when they could be helpful, and when they couldn’t until I became one. My explanation here applies to in-house legal searches (versus law firm searches, another beast entirely).
Employers pay recruiters to place in-house counsel with them. There are different payment scenarios; I choose to be paid only when a lawyer I refer joins the company (this sounds risky, but it isn’t usually a problem because I work on speed and accuracy). Before I start on a search, I become an approved vendor and sign a services agreement with the company. I talk to the hiring manager to understand what the job does, how it fits in with the legal team, what is its trajectory, and what it’ll be paid. Then I start looking for people who fit the manager’s wish list.
I’m most helpful to candidates by shepherding them through searches I’m working on. Unlike any search they are doing on their own, they learn from me how they are being perceived, where they stand in the process, and how they can improve. My value from start to finish:
- Presentation. The first thing I help candidates with is their presentation, which includes online, resume, and in-person/on video. I help them understand their audience and craft their presentation accordingly.
- Interview process. I update them on the number and types of interviews, the company’s hot buttons, good vs. bad questions to ask, likely questions and good vs. bad answers to those. I also report on where things stand throughout the process.
- Offer. I give them the heads up on likely offers, timing, delivery (verbally first or via email, etc.), and whether it’s best and final or if they can negotiate. I also help them navigate the happy but stressful situation of multiple offers.
Because employers are paying me, they want me to send them only candidates who can do the job now. As a result, I cannot help:
- Candidates who are very junior with very little experience. In-house counsel are expected to come with necessary skills, not to be mentored or extensively trained. Usually the most junior candidate I will be asked to search for has at least 3 years’ experience.
- Candidates who want to transition to another field. Again, employers want candidates with a proven track record and aren’t usually willing to pay a recruiter for someone they have to take a chance on.
- Candidates who need visa sponsorship. These candidates can often get jobs on their own, but employers to date have not been receptive to accepting from me candidates who require work sponsorship.
- Candidates interested in companies I don’t have a contract with. Unlike real estate agents who can represent buyers for any house listed on the MLS, I can’t present candidates to any employer hiring. The only employers who want to hear from me are the ones I have a signed agreement with for an active search.