Baum Stevens Bargman

Don't Run when a Headhunter Calls

David BargmanComment

 In the jungle, headhunters were after grisly trophies. In the jungle of the legal profession, we only want your resume. While the term "headhunter" -- we prefer "recruiter" or "search consultant” -- often invokes the same distaste as our primitive namesakes, we can turn out to be lifesavers in career guidance. Recruiters are privy to the best jobs, have insider knowledge of the legal marketplace and do a lot of the dirty work that comes with job searches than you will likely want or have time to do. Best of all, we make our living on fees from the employer, so it costs you nothing. It would be silly, then, to pass on a free consultation on your career and the market. So when the phone rings and it's a recruiter on the other end, don't be so quick to brush her off, even if you're totally content with your job.  Here’s why: A Lawyer's Friend Lawyers and recruiters need each other and not just because both have less-than-flattering images. You have nothing to lose but some billable time; a good recruiter will help you focus on your career, define you and your position, provide a window to what's going on in the market and provide an outsider's view of your firm. The more information you have, the better. Find a reputable recruiter through referrals and websites.  Even in down times, lawyers should maintain relationships with recruiters because we keep up with the market much more doggedly than most lawyers do. First, there are openings and a good headhunter can advise you on marketing or retooling yourself for what is available. Touch base with a recruiter every six months or so even if you're not looking for a job. You owe it to yourself to keep an eye on your field, and you want your name to pop up when a recruiter has an opportunity you may not have heard about.  Do not get to know the recruiter when you’re looking for a job. Establish a relationship and a comfort level. Most associates don't have time to scan the horizon looking for possible jobs; recruiters can help narrow that search. Again, it is vital to maintain a relationship with recruiters no matter what your current situation is. In fact, given how hard it is just to make initial contact, it's a good idea to pursue a relationship when you don't have the pressure of finding a new job weighing on you. Maxims to Practice By Think of recruiters as deal brokers or agents for professional athletes. It is our job to follow industry trends and gossip, so we can fill you in on what's going on. In addition to providing perspective, we can prep you for interviews, inform you about companies and even negotiate your salary. Play one recruiter against another. If one is not helpful, knowledgeable and responsive, call another and explain the situation. Odds are this will make everyone focus on your needs. Always keep in mind that you have the final say. Sure, recruiters are in the sales business. But we can only sell opportunities to motivated lawyers. Remember, you have to be sold as well as the firm. A car dealer does not have to persuade the car that the Joneses are the right owners for it. Take care of your career like you take care of your health. Schedule a check-up with your recruiter today. David Bargman is president of Baum Stevens Bargman in New York.

YOUR RESUME By David Bargman

David BargmanComment

The purpose of a resume is to induce the employer to interview you.  Therefore, good resumes are factual, not descriptive.  Your resume should recount your education and experience.  Stay away from general descriptions of yourself since  they do not give your potential employer useful information about you. Separate clearly your education and professional experience.  As a rule of thumb, if you are fewer than 4 years post J.D., you should place your education first.  After that your professional experience becomes most relevant.  Summer jobs in law school and Clerkships are jobs, internships and research projects are education and should be designated as such.  Your resume tells your prospective employer whether you are qualified for a job and you are using it to get in the door.

Do not use your resume to persuade anyone.   Interviewing will determine whether you are the right person for the job.  As Joe Friday [look him up on Google] used to say, “Just the facts Ma’am.” Furthermore, the origins of the “rule” that a resume should be one page are lost in the mists of time. If your job history or list of representative transactions or cases requires more than one page, provide all of the relevant history without regard to space.  While you never, never, omit anything relevant [such as a job so as to  avoid seeming like a jumper], you need not include a G.P.A or class rank unless that will reduce your chances of being interviewed for a job for which you are qualified. Of course, the resume needs to be legible without using a magnifying glass so use a font that is easy to read . Finally technical or personal information (admissions, interests outside the law, and languages, unless a job requirement) should be at the bottom of your resume.

When it comes to your resume less is more and a little goes a long way.  

David Bargman is President of Baum Stevens Bargman, a legal search consultancy.  He works with lawyers on placement, marketing and career development

Want the job? - Sell yourself

David BargmanComment

Want the job? – Sell yourself

          OK, you have submitted your resume and have been called in for an initial interview (screenings are for movies).  Whether you are desperate to make a move, need a job, or following a recruiter’s suggestion, your goal is the same:  to get an offer.  At each stage of the process, your goal is to get to the next round.  Until you have an offer, you have nothing to decide. First, you must sell yourself. The best salespeople are authentic, knowledgeable and, most of all, good listeners.

          The firm called you in because your resume tells them that you can do the job. Because the firm has made that fact-based decision, the interview is a “chemistry” visit. You want to be prepared for some “getting to know you” small talk; I recommend that my candidates ask for coffee to give themselves time to get to know the interviewer, by looking at photos, non-legal books, or knick-knacks that tell you about the interviewer’s interests outside the law.  However, you must have in mind at all times that this is a business meeting, not a cocktail party.

          You are there to convince your prospective employer that you are the perfect lawyer for the position. They need you more than you need them because, in most cases, you have a job and they have a need

          Remember:

·       You have no needs or desires until you get an offer, so stay away from questions about your personal needs e.g., salary, partnership track, office, parental leave.

·       Interviewing is about convincing prospective employers that you are the best person for the position.

·       As the firm and you begin to get excited, you can introduce your needs.

          The first question will usually be some variation on why you are there. Tell the interviewer how much you have learned and enjoyed your current firm (they do not want to hear negatives).  In three sentences, including your good standing at your current firm, mention the highlights of your experience and then your goals.  (You must convey that are moving toward something, not away from something.

          Ask questions about the interviewer's practice and respond with specific examples how you (not your firm) dealt with comparable situations.  Have several matters in mind so that you can discuss your experience in detail in order to help the interviewer visualize you working.

          The more you come across as a knowledgeable and valued colleague, the more likely you are to get an offer.  People want to be around people they like.

          Enjoy!

Lawyers' Lives

David BargmanComment

Lawyers’ Lives

 

Once upon a time, in 2007 to be exact, the American Bar Association began tracking the careers of almost 5,000 law graduates for a project called “After the J.D.”  The ABA Journal reported that a whopping 76% of those surveyed were either ‘extremely of moderately satisfied with their decision to become an attorney”.

Two years later, the ABA terminated the project immediately because 50% of the lawyers interviewed originally were still practicing law and those who still had jobs was either disinterested or downright abusive to interviewers.

“It has been awful, just unbelievable,” said one interviewer.  The lawyers I spoke to treated me as if I were a headhunter.”

I am the President of Baum Stevens Bargman, one of New York’s oldest legal recruiting firms.  I have been a litigator at a New York firm, General Counsel of a company that went public and four years later went bankrupt, and a solo practitioner.  As a recruiter I hear stories of lawyers’ varying levels of satisfaction; some welcome my help, some are downright hostile.  When I was deciding between law and graduate school, a relative told me that law school is a great education even I you don’t practice. My second career owes very little to my legal education except, perhaps, credibility with clients and candidates. I ask myself what these responses and what surveys like Post J.D. say about the state of our profession and lawyer satisfaction overall especially the role of recruiters.

To start, I reached out to several partners, active and retired, and one General Counsel, asking why they became lawyers and why they made their careers in the law.

BigLaw Partner specializing in International Litigation

He majored in Sociology in college and was active in the peace movement.  As a result of his academic and political interests, he became interested in peaceful resolution of disputes. He went to Law school because it seemed like a way to pursue his interest in conflict resolution.  Toward that end, he took a joint degree in public policy.  He was a Federal Circuit Court Law Clerk after Law School, but was not convinced that law was his calling. He did need a job and a friend told him about the International practice at his firm. The friend put his resume in front of a partner in that group.  He received an offer and has been at the firm for 17 years, the last three as a partner.  He met woman who became his wife and stayed in New York. . He asked his friend to get his resume in front of her and accepted an offer from the firm.  He has been at the firm for 15 years.  He became a partner this year after his group promoted him the firm for several years.

 

His practice is primarily international commercial litigation and arbitration; he feels that representing companies in peaceful resolution of disputes without jurisdictional and choice of law issues prevents cross border hostilities and trade wars, consonant with his original interest in the peaceful resolution of disputes.  (And the money’s not bad).

 

He has thoughts from time to time about policy work, but he is satisfied, for the most part, very happy with his decision. He still enjoys the practice and writes and lectures in his field.  Occasionally, he considers the roads not taken but is happy he chose the law.

 

The Tax Lawyer

 

He set out to be a surgeon like his Dad.  He abandoned that goal after he observed an operation.  Lacking not only the stomach but the manual dexterity for a surgeon, he rejected Architecture his second choice at the time.  He was an excellent student, attending an Ivy where he mentioned in European Literature.  What else was a good Jewish boy to do but go to Law School, also Ivy, in order to make a good living?

 

Glad he decided to be a tax lawyer, suits his intellectual bent and attention to detail.  Also wanted to be valued for his skills as a lawyer and avoid the pressure. rainmaking He would make the same decision except for the debt he might have to accrue. Can’t think of anything he would have done having ruled out Medicine and architecture (always wanted to be a professional).

 

Worked a at first class Manhattan firm for several years before going in house for major financial institution where he remained for many years until a merger left him back on the street.  He found himself in precisely the situation he had always tried to avoid. He became a partner in a small firm which dissolved; he worked at a Big 4 Accounting firm, but returned to private practice.  He recently retired from his potion there as Senior Tax Counsel.

 

He made the right decision because being a tax lawyer proved to be well suited to my temperament and skills.  He would make the same decision if I had it to do all over again.

 

 

One reservation he would have would be, since law school is so much more expensive than I went, I would probably incur considerable debt.

 

He chose to work at a fist class Manhattan firm in midtown for the prestige and as a reward for the hard work I had put in at Harvard College and Law School. At one point, he decided to move my practice in-house. At another point, after small where he was a partner dissolved, he decided to join a major accounting firm rather than express myself to the risks of another law firm from which I had an offer.

 

He decided to become when he received assignment to prepare “a schedule of documents for a corporate transaction. He had no idea what the transaction was and nobody told him. The next transaction was to prepare a memorandum of law related to a litigation. The work was interesting, but he knew that he lacked the aggressive temperament to be a litigator.  The third assignment was to prepare a memorandum regarding whether a “profits interest” was deductible interest or a non-deductible dividend.  He found the work intriguing and intellectually challenging.  A tax lawyer was born.

 

The high point of his career was preparing a protest to the appellate division of the Internal Service.  The protest was successful and the client saved millions of dollars.

 

The low point was being laid off near the end of his career. Although it was due to a large reduction in force, it still stung and left me wondering how I would continue my career.

 

He would become a tax attorney were he faced with the same decision (unless his personality were different.)

The most significant change to the practice during his care has been the decline of tax planning lawyers and the increase of tax compliance lawyers. He believes that this is due in part to there being a smaller number of clients willing to pay high fees for sophisticated tax planning. Instead, major accounting firms employ significantly more tax lawyers.  Also, the availability of online tax research has permitted lawyers in smaller (and less expensive) to keep clients up to date as readily as their counterparts at large firms.  When he started practicing, the Internet was a dream in Al Gore’s mind.

Do you recommend a career law?  This is a difficult question. The practice in large firms has in his view become more “hard-nosed” and competitive than he started. And the required number of billable hours is as staggering as it always was. Life/work balance is desirable goal but I don’t know how associates can achieve it.  It has been my experience that small firms and corporations have been less draconian. Because I have never worked in academe or government, He has no feeling for those venues.  Lawyer can be stimulating intellectually and can provide a good living.  It also provides opportunities for social service for persons with such a bent.

 

The General Counsel

 

He decided to become a lawyer in college because he was attracted to the intellectual and analytical aspects of lawyering and that the practice of law is not just bout money (although the financial aspect worked out very well for him.)

 

With hindsight, did he make the right decision?  The jury is still out. He sometimes wishes he had chosen something less stressful.  He also tires sometimes of having to the enforcer of the rules. So even after a partnership in a major firm and being GC of a multi-billion public company, he still muses on paths not taken, e.g., teaching or engineering.

 

He chose his first firm after a second summer because he liked the people and the practice.  He became a partner so he obviously made right decision.)  He decided against returning to his first summer firm.  He thought that their motto ought to be “We are fucking going to kill you.”

 

As successful as he was as a litigator, he wanted to blend law and business.  He was successful in landing a General Counsel position for the North American division of an Asian Company and is now General Counsel of a $3Billion Company based in New York.

 

His moves have been based on being able to do more interesting work, to take on more responsibility, and to support his family.

 

His specialties have evolved unintentionally.  His first firm needed a litigator, so he litigated.  A recruiter called with an in-house corporate law position after he made partner and he grabbed it.

 

The high point of his career was crafting the winning strategy for an Entertainment client in a hotly contested breach of contract case.  The low point came when a jury returned a large verdict against his client which fortunately war reversed on appeal.

 

Technology has totally changed the practice of law from electronic discovery to the ability to quickly create documents and turn multiple drafts to being available to clients 24/7.  If there was ever any down time in the, it is gone. Ironically, he believes that technology while increasing efficiency in the practice, has made the practice 24/7, which was not the norm at the start of his career.

 

He would recommend law to someone who enjoys intellectual stimulation and wants to earn a nice living but cares about things other than money.  There are, however, a lot of dues to pay for professional and financial success, so he is not sure it is right for everyone.

 

The Retired Litigation Partner

 

He decided to become a litigator because it suited his pugnacious and outgoing character. As Law Review at a top ten school, he had his pick of firms for his second summer; he chose his firm because he liked the offices and accepted an offer permanent employment.  He has no regrets about his choice, especially because his career ranged being a federal prosecutor, a commercial litigator, and one of the top insurance coverage specialists in the country.  Of course, he would have d0ne certain things differently (e.g. choosing a specialty earlier) if he knew then what he knows now.

 

His best memory is wining the conviction and life sentence of a major drug lord who had scoffed at attempts to bring him to justice.  His low point was realizing he was not going to make partner at his first firm.  It took him almost 24 hours to recover.

 

These four lawyers were fortunate.  Each chose the law and had no major regrets. Each found work that suit them and they could commit to. They also were immunized from the need to make, except for the Insurance litigator, who welcomed challenge.

 

The takeaway

 

Four professional portraits do not a survey make. They do offer anecdotal insight into professional lives in the law. They may help in evaluating your experience and your goals.  They may help answer questions posed by a recruiter

such as: Why did you go to law school?  Are you glad you did?  What do you want for the future of your career?

 

Grab the reins before they grab you.

 

Kick the Tires During Due Diligence

David BargmanComment

 

As any biglaw attorney knows, "due diligence" is a term used in business transactions. It refers to the purchaser's analysis and evaluation of the value of the property and the assets and liabilities it is assuming in a prospective purchase.

Associates often tell me that they want to do their due diligence on a firm or in-house opportunity that I have brought to their attention before submitting a resume.  I have found that, sometimes, this is the attorney's way of rejecting my suggestion without actually saying no. More often, however, I think it  is a good  lawyer's natural inclination to deliberate before coming to a conclusion.  After all, we are trained to analyze all relevant  aspects of a situation before coming to a conclusion.

In my experience, when a lawyer tells me that she wants to do her due diligence, she is talking doing one or all of the following:

1.  reading the website for information about the firm's practice areas and attorneys;

2.  reading firm profiles on NALP or Vault; 

4.  searching the web for articles about the firm or cases and transactions in which it has been involved; and

5. contacting connections either at the firm or who have had experience with the firm.

This type of due diligence is an important adjunct to considering a lateral move.  Yet it is just that, an adjunct. Unlike due diligence in a business transaction, the information a lawyer obtains about a firm such as compensation, practice rankings, profitability, or partnership statistics are no substitute for "kicking the tires" or taking a test drive. Whether for a better work environment, different specialty, better compensation, lifestyle, or partnership track, lateral moves at any level are deeply personal decisions. You cannot make an informed decision until you have sat across the table from your potential colleagues and getting a feel for what it will be like working with them.  Relying on "due diligence" alone to decide whether to interview is akin to  predicting the final score before playing the game.

 

Don’t Run When a “Headhunter” Calls

David BargmanComment

 

By David Bargman

In the jungle, headhunters were after grisly trophies. In the jungle of the legal profession, we only want your resume. While the term "headhunter" -- we prefer "recruiter" or "search consultant” -- often invokes the same distaste as our primitive namesakes, we can turn out to be lifesavers in career guidance. Recruiters are privy to the best jobs, have insider knowledge of the legal marketplace and do a lot more of the dirty work that comes with job searches than you will likely want or have time to do. Best of all, we make our living on fees from the employer, so it costs you nothing. Don’t pass up a free consultation on your career and the market. When the phone rings and it's a recruiter on the other end, don't be so quick to brush her off; listen to what she has to say and ask about the market even if you're totally content with your job.

Here’s why:

A Lawyer's Friend

Lawyers and recruiters need each other and not just because both have less-than-flattering public images. You have nothing to lose but some billable time; a good recruiter will help you focus on your career, define you and your position, provide a window to what's going on in the market and provide an outsider's view of your firm. The more information you have, the better. Find a reputable recruiter through referrals and websites.

Even in down times, lawyers should maintain relationships with recruiters because we keep up with the market much more doggedly than most lawyers can. There are openings and a good headhunter can advise you on marketing or retooling yourself for what is available. Touch base with a recruiter every six months or so even if you are not on the market. You owe it to yourself to keep an eye on your field, and you want your name to pop up when a recruiter has an opportunity you may not have heard about.

Do not wait until you are looking to get to know your recruiter. Establish a relationship and a comfort level. It is vital to maintain a relationship with a recruiter no matter what your current situation is. Most associates do not have time to scan the horizon looking for possible jobs; recruiters can help narrow that search In fact, given how hard it is just to make initial contact, it is a good idea to pursue a relationship when you do not have the pressure of finding a new job.

Maxims to Practice By

Think of recruiters as deal brokers or agents for professional athletes. It is our job to follow industry trends and gossip, so we can fill you in on what is going on. In addition to providing perspective, we can prepare you for interviews, inform you about companies, and even negotiate your salary.

Play one recruiter against another. If one is not helpful, knowledgeable and responsive, call another and explain the situation. Odds are this will make everyone focus on your needs. Always keep in mind that you have the final say.

Sure, recruiters are in the sales business. But we can only sell opportunities to motivated lawyers. Remember, you have to be sold on the firm. A car dealer does not have to persuade the car that the Joneses are the right owners for it.

Take care of your career like you take care of your health. Schedule a check-up with your recruiter today.

David Bargman is president of Baum Stevens Bargman in New York.

In House Only

Carlos WilliamsComment

If I have heard it once, I have heard it 1,000 (and probably more) times as a recruiter:  “I am not interested in another firm, but I am interested in in-house opportunities.”  When I ask why a lawyer is limiting her career plans to in-house, the responsibilities include: law firms are all the same, I want more predictability in my schedule, I don’t want to bill my time anymore, or I want to be part of the business.”  Other than the first (law firms are not fungible), these are valid reasons; the risks of going in-house are ending your training, losing your legal skills, thus, exposing yourself to a different type of insecurity.

After six years of burning the post-midnight oil as a midtown associate, I took a job as a 9-6 staff attorney at an advertising agency.  The work was varied and interesting, I never worked a weekend and the only reason I ever stayed in the building past 6 was to attend a concert or party at the Company bar.  I would probably still be working there had there not been a hostile takeover and lay off of 80% of the legal department.

I was fortunate to land a position as General Counsel of a newly NYSE listed motion picture production and distribution company.  On my first day on the job, the CEO and majority shareholder welcomed me and told me to make legal a “profit center.”   I nodded, left his office, and asked the first person I found what a “profit center” was. The company president told me I had to reduce the legal budget. When I suggested using an excellent regional firm I knew well instead of our first-rate Manhattan outside counsel, he told me that was impossible because of the close relationship between the CEO and that firm’s relationship partner. How I managed those goals is the subject of another blog.

The job consisted of exciting 12-hour days managing the day-to-day legal function, regular travel to Hollywood and London and, ultimately, a Chapter 11 filing (which was tremendous learning experience for what it’s worth).  I had developed management skills and learned a lot about how clients use and view their lawyers; I decided that my in-house experience had best suited to me to private practice where I could apply my new skills and grow my legal skill set before it atrophied completely. [How I became a recruiter ten years later is also the subject of another blog or maybe a screenplay.]

I have fond and grateful memories of my days in-house. What I especially liked about it was that my clients were my colleagues.  Many became clients in my private practice and remain friends. If you are not happy in private practice, the right in-house job can be a perfect antidote.  You may have to make trade-offs in compensation and upward mobility. And the pressure of having one client and one boss can be excruciating. My advice is to consider all your options, both firm and in-house. And bear in mind the old adage: watch out what you wish for, because you may get it.