How to Work with a Legal Recruiter

Published: Aug 29, 2016

 Job Search       Law       

Legal Recruiters can be a great asset during your job search, but remember they work for the hiring company, not for you. There are two types of recruiters. Contingency recruiters are paid by the company only if the candidate they recommend is hired. Retained recruiters are paid whether the candidate is hired or not.

There are many excellent legal recruiters who will go the extra mile to help you land a job. On the other hand, some recruiters exaggerate their placement records and don’t have your best interests at heart. Good recruiters are easy to identify. They’re extremely knowledgeable about legal employers and practice areas. They return your phone calls and e-mails, and they treat you with respect. They’ll help you review your résumé and cover letter and prepare for interviews, and they’ll give you honest advice about whether a job is the right fit for you or not. The best recruiters will even tell you if they think that you don’t need their services, and that you should pursue jobs through your college’s career services center or through other methods. If a recruiter isn’t providing you with this level of service, you should find one who will. One way to find a quality recruiter is to contact the National Association of Legal Search Consultants. Recruiters who are members of this organization adhere to its code of ethics regarding recruiter/candidate relationships.

Keep the following in mind when working with recruiters:

  • It’s in your best interest to develop a good relationship with the recruiter. Be completely honest about your professional/educational background and qualifications. Recruiters stake their reputations on the quality of the candidates they present to their clients. If you mislead the recruiter about your qualifications, it will make him or her look bad and reduce your chances of landing a job. Never be pushy or rude. Recruiters keep detailed records about their clients, and they may spread the word to colleagues if your attitude is bad (or if you lie about your qualifications). Keep the lines of communication open with the recruiter. If you decide to expand or narrow your job search, tell the recruiter immediately so you’re not wasting his or her time.
  • You should never attempt an end run around the recruiter if he or she tells you that an employer is not interested in interviewing you. It’s in the recruiter’s best interest to help you land a job (because then he or she gets paid). Contacting a company directly in an instance such as this makes you look desperate and demonstrates a lack of understanding about the recruiting process. Remember also that recruiters have long memories and won’t forget your actions.
  • Try to work only with recruiters who have a proven track record in legal job placement. Generalist recruiters most likely lack the inside knowledge they'll need to help you land a job.
  • Recruiters should send your résumé only to companies you’re interested in and only for positions you’re seeking. Unethical recruiters may send your résumé to companies you’re not interested in or for jobs you don’t want. This can affect your chances of getting hired in the future. Plus, if your résumé becomes widely available at job sites, it may be harder to keep your job search hidden from your present employer.
  • You shouldn’t pay recruiters for their services. Those who charge for services are not recruiters, but in fact employment agency workers, career counselors, or executive marketing firm workers, and they may not have expertise in the legal industry or have inside information about job openings.
  • It’s important to know when to use a recruiter. Many recruiters don’t work with recent law school graduates, focusing instead on working with junior-level associates up to senior partners or general counsel. Recruiters are most interested in representing candidates who attended top law schools, who have stellar academic records, and who have a stable employment history at a top law firm or other employer. If you’re a recent graduate, you should work with on-campus recruiters (from law firms and other organizations that employ lawyers), or search for jobs via employment sites, legal publication job listings, networking, and other methods.

The above was adapted from the Vault Guide to Law.

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