Earlier this week I received an email from a prospective candidate asking for my advice. His concerns are so ubiquitous, it prompted this blog post response. This candidate, a recent graduate of a respected law school, with good grades, law review, moot court, and a clerkship on his resume, is unemployed. In addition to the multitude of applications he submitted directly, he has also sent his resume to several recruiters, but never heard back. He told me that these recruiters advertised job openings that matched his background and credentials, and yet they were not interested in speaking with him. He wanted to understand why.
We (recruiters) hear this question a lot lately; understandably so. Job seekers are very frustrated in the current market, and feel slighted by recruiters that don’t want to work with them. The reasons are pretty simple, and for the most part, have nothing to do with whether the recruiter is a good person or a greedy opportunist.
At the outset, for those attorneys who are recent graduates or coming out of clerkships, it is important that you understand that recruiters who place full time associates do not typically work with entry level attorneys. (These recruiters are not to be confused with legal staffing agencies that work with contract attorneys and do, in fact, place entry level candidates). Because firms invest so much time and money in their own recruiting programs, they won’t accept new graduate resumes from recruiters. Employers expect the candidates we submit to have at least one full year of post-graduate, post-clerkship experience. There are some exceptions, but that’s the general rule. It could be that you’re not hearing back from recruiters because your level of experience is outside the scope of what we can do, no matter how stellar your record.
For those candidates that have at least one year of experience and still aren’t hearing back from recruiters – you’re not going to like what I have to say next.
It’s not news that the legal market is flooded with competent, talented attorneys looking for work. Firms and companies, aware of their advantage, are being very particular about the candidates they’ll consider. If they have an open position, they’ll hold out until they find the perfect candidate with stellar credentials and the exact skill set they’re seeking. They are not interested in hiring attorneys that need to be retrained. It’s important to remember that although the lines are often blurred, recruiters are “employed by” these law firms/companies, not by candidates. These days, that means that firms expect the candidates we submit to be the best of the best. We try to work with, advise, help and coach the candidates we work with (hopefully, spreading some good karma along the way), but our allegiance, naturally, is to our clients and their needs.
For the most part, since recruiters work on contingency, we only get paid if and when we make a placement. That harsh reality means recruiters only spend time talking to (and submitting) candidates that are likely to get interviewed and hired. Apologies for being callous—but that’s just the nature of what we do.
All is not lost however. Just because a recruiter doesn’t have a fitting position for you today, doesn’t mean he won’t tomorrow. Submit your resume, keep it updated, and let the recruiter know what you’re looking for (with specifics like geography, salary, firm type and size, and practice area). We don’t discard resumes—we do really keep them on file—and one day we might, in fact, call you with your dream job.
Angela Kopolovich is the Managing Director of Alegna International, a boutique attorney recruiting firm. A former practicing litigator with a large global law firm, Angela now specializes in placing attorneys with law firms and corporate legal departments, around the country and abroad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Recruiter_Law.