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.
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.