15 Risks of Using an Ineffective Partner Recruiter

This article may read a bit like a “scare piece.”  It is.  And it should be.  Because it’s all true.

Similar to lawyers handling contingency fee cases, recruiters earn their living in a commission-based environment that is dependent upon making successful lateral placements.  on completed placements. They earn a fee if they place you.  Nothing if they don’t.  If you work with an ineffective recruiter who is driven solely by the pursuit of a quick fee — rather than a desire to assist in making a mutually beneficial match between two parties — you will pay a price.  You will feel it at every stage of the process.  At best it’s highly annoying and, at worst, it can jeopardize your lateral move.  What are some of these risks? 

  • They don’t understand law firm structures, partner compensation models, and profitability analyses.  As such, they are unable to present your information effectively, and they are unable to help you navigate the process.  
  • They are horrible at negotiation.  Clumsy, sloppy, annoying, and off-putting.  
  • They don’t know the market and relevant players within your field.
  • They don’t know how to analyze or present your practice in a way that puts your best foot forward.  
  • They don’t know decision-makers or other influential people in the firm.
  • They tell you only what they think you want to hear and selectively share information. 
  • They omit negative information about the firm so you’ll be more likely to want to interview.
  • They omit potentially negative information about your practice (which WILL come up later), instead of approaching it thoughtfully at the outset.   The impact is the firm may think you omitted information.
  • They puff up your numbers, which the firms assume is your dishonesty as the due diligence process evolves.  I’ve heard of partners telling candidates, “Can we get your portable business to start with a 3 or 4 instead of a 2.5.” 
  • They put undue pressure on you, which is completely annoying (at best). 
  • They present you to firms with which they don’t have a relationship nor the ability to present you. 
  • They send your bio to firms without your permission. 
  • They obtain your permission but send your bio to firms that don’t have an actual need (without prior disclosure of this fact), which may result in your being passed on for the wrong reason. 
  • They engage in double blind setups:  They call Partner X and say “Firm Y is interested in speaking with you.  Would you be interested in them?” Once Partner X says “Yes,” the recruiter contacts Firm Y and says, “Partner X is interested in speaking with you. Would you be interested in speaking with him/her?” This is misleading at best and dangerously unethical at worst. 
  • They lack discretion. As one partner recently shared, “One clumsy or ineffective recruiter actually called my assistant to confirm I received an email regarding a change in my interview schedule.” 
  • They reflect poorly on you as evidenced by sloppy work product (e.g., it’s not uncommon to see certain recruiters who send emails with different sized or color fonts and inconsistent formatting) or inaccurate or imprecise writing. The lack of attention to detail does not help your presentation, and reflects poorly on your choice of a representative.

As you can see from the above, the legal recruiter you choose to represent you is a direct reflection on you in the market and can positively or negatively impact aspects of your lateral move. In the same manner that clients evaluate and select attorneys to assist with important legal matters, you should apply similar due diligence when selecting a recruiter. 

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Picture of Author: Dan Binstock

Author: Dan Binstock

Dan co-owns Garrison & Sisson, where he focuses on lateral partner and practice group placements. He has consistently been recognized as one of the Top 100 Global Legal Strategists and Consultants by LawDragon, and authored "The Attorney's Guide to Using (or Not Using) Legal Recruiters." Dan is the Immediate Past President of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC), where he also served as Chair of the Ethics Committee. Visit here to learn more about Dan, or contact him confidentially with any questions at (202) 559-0492 or dbinstock@g-s.com.

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