Finding a legal recruiter
February 21, 2005 11:12 AM   Subscribe

How do you find a good legal recruiter?

My girlfriend would like to find a legal recruiter in the SF Bay area but none of her contacts can make a recommendation. Basic googling reveals a few recruiters, but how to pick one? Besides the difficulty of separating the wheat from the chaff, there are few that she says are good for her (looking for an associate position in a small firm, and not a temp-to-perm position either).
posted by jewzilla to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Networking. Does she know people who are working for the type of firm she wants to work for? Generally people who are working at these firms have been 'headhunted' (heck, i was headhunted within WEEKS of starting a sales job in Portland, by the one guy who actually had his fingers in every pie) by recruiters in the past, and know who's legit, who's pushy, who's easy to work with, and who knows everyone else. The recruiters' job is to be known... therefore, asking around a little bit in the industry will turn up who is known.
posted by SpecialK at 11:24 AM on February 21, 2005

I am an associate at a small firm in San Francisco.

If your girlfriend wants an associate position in a small firm, she should contact them directly herself. Small firms can rarely afford to use recruiters because of the cost, and those than can afford to, generally don't.

SpecialK is correct. Networking is the way to go. If she is already in the Bay Area, she should join the Bar Association of San Francisco and attend their functions. She should subscribe to the Recorder (or find a library that has a subscription). Various alums from my college have organized a group out here for alums who are attorneys in the Bay Area- that kind of group makes for excellent networking- she should look for something like that (or organize one.)
posted by ambrosia at 11:52 AM on February 21, 2005

Have her try Major, Hagen & Africa. I have always had succes with them.
posted by Carsey at 12:03 PM on February 21, 2005

I might have to disagree a bit with ambrosia. While one should always develop, and then work through, connections when possible, you shouldn't hesitate to work with headhunters for a smaller firm job.

From what I've seen, firms in the 10-50 lawyer range tend to rely upon headhunters quite heavily. Smaller firms need marketing to get the attention of candidates (because they're below the radar of the typical big-firm midlevel associates who are their typical laterals) and they need recruiting/legal personnel coordination (which they can't justify having done in-house given their 1 or 2 hires a year). Outsourcing these functions to a few favored headhunters is actually very cost- and time-effective.

One advantage of working with headhunters is that it screens out the smaller firms which are so on the edge financially that the $40k or $50k is really a problem, because you do NOT want to be working for such a firm.

Unless Carsey knows something I don't, Major Hagen & Africa tends to focus on searches for big firms and substantial in-house departments -- not sure that they would be terribly helpful for a search with this profile.
posted by MattD at 12:28 PM on February 21, 2005

seconding specialK and ambrosia. if she's just graduation, the recruiters will do very little for her. if she's looking for a small firm, the recruiters will have very few positions of interest to her. sounds like she's discovering this on her own reconnaissance.

ambrosia has some particularly good additional advice (about bar associations and alumni groups). she might also consider looking for an association that does pro bono work in her practice area (people tend to think of pro bono work as largely criminal or immigration law only; this isn't really true. many artists groups, for instance, keep a database of attorneys available to handle legal work for artists on a pro bono basis); she may make good connections that way.

of course, i'm not in the Bay area, so my experience with recruiters (all in chicago or the DC area) may be completely irrelevant to your girlfriend.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:36 PM on February 21, 2005

Here's a good site to find recruiters. These are members of the national legal recruiter trade association. Of the San Francisco firms that come up, BCG is definitely not recommended. Another great place to look around are the GA boards (one, two) for SF/SV. Search by "headhunter" or "recruiter" to find candid commentary on various firms, or just ask the same question there you did here.
posted by MattD at 12:37 PM on February 21, 2005

ambrosia nailed it.

It would also be good if she knew what kind of field she wanted to go in to. There are ways to get a good jobs at a health care, technology, or an environmental law firm, depending on what she is interested in. I could give her more advice if she emails me backchannel and lets me know what she is looking for. I am always willing to help give advice to others, as I recieved it myself and know the value.
posted by dios at 12:56 PM on February 21, 2005

One more thing to keep in mind, jewzilla, is that the Bay Area is traditionally a very tight job market for lawyers. The exception of the dot-com boom notwithstanding, each year area law schools (Stanford, Boalt Hall, etc.) produce more attorneys than there are available jobs. When I was working as an associate in New York City, smaller firms did indeed use recruiters. Nowadays, when I am contacted by a headhunter, it's either for a job at one of the local mega-firms or to relocate someplace like Orange County or Miami. My firm, when hiring, does the following: it places an ad in The Recorder, loading up the fax machine with extra paper for the expected deluge. The first step is to ding anyone with litigation experience (it's a transactional firm, and the partners believe litigators aren't a good fit, personality-wise.) Then, it's left to the associates to sort through the rest, do initial interviews and come up with a handful of candidates for the partners to make the final decision. Attracting qualified talent is not a problem- San Francisco is an attractive location. A couple of associates are here because of their undergrad contacts, which got them through the first rounds of culling resumes.
posted by ambrosia at 1:45 PM on February 21, 2005

Thanks for all the helpful advise, everyone! To flesh out the picture a bit more:
Part of the problem is that she's looking from the East coast, where she does have a job. So networking will be difficult because she won't move without employment in the new locale. She's an associate with three years of experience, and her experience is with union-side labor law in a <10 person firm. She's not interested in environmental defense, management-side labor law, or transactional law, but she said she'd consider personal injury or insurance defense if necessary.
posted by jewzilla at 7:40 PM on February 21, 2005

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