It's no secret that the law sector has taken its share of blows amid the economic uncertainty of recent years. Yet, the industry remains on its toes due in part to its multifaceted range of services, and the expansion of recruitment and guidance resources. One professional familiar with this is Jennifer Bird, who has seen both sides of the industry as an attorney and a legal search consultant. Bird, a graduate of Yale Law School, practiced law at White & Case's New York headquarters before transitioning to a career in recruitment. As vice president of Empire Search Partners, she now advises attorneys at all levels and conducts workshops for candidates exploring their career options. In an interview with Vault, Ms. Bird discussed the route that brought her to her present position, the challenges facing law professionals in the current economy, and much more.
VAULT: Prior to entering the legal search field, you were a tax and trust and estates attorney at White & Case. What prompted your shift from practicing law to recruiting?
Jennifer Bird: I really enjoyed the practice and the people I worked with at White & Case, but over time I found myself drawn to the relationship-building aspect of the business. When I left the firm, I took some time off to explore other options and was attracted to recruiting because it allowed me to utilize my knowledge of the law and law firms while focusing on relationship-building and career advising which I love. At the same time, I get to continue to work with lawyers, which is a lot of fun for me and also very rewarding.
V: In addition to direct consultation, you lead workshops for legal professionals. As the industry undergoes a period of instability, what are some of the frequent concerns you address for attendees?
JB: The workshops I have led with good friend and career coach, Suzanne Grossman, have primarily been for attorneys who are thinking about the next steps in their careers, whether it be moving to another firm, the government, the nonprofit sector, going in-house or leaving the law altogether to pursue another path. A common concern for attendees is “how do I figure out what I want to do next?” In the workshops we encourage attorneys to explore internally and externally, examining who they are and what they want out of life and identifying possible career paths by networking and talking to professionals in different industries. We also spend time advising attorneys on how to position themselves to get the careers they want once they figure out where they want to go. The current economic climate has made transitioning more difficult, but at the same time has provided a great opportunity for attorneys to take the time to explore and figure out what they really want.
V: Your background includes experience in legislation, social aid and even the Australian judicial system. Did you approach each of these ventures with the expectation of launching a career, or with intent to broaden your skill set for an eventual career elsewhere?
JB: I’m not sure if I was entirely aware of the benefit that the array of experiences would eventually have on my career. I adopted a sort of trial and error method in terms of trying on different kinds of jobs, with law as a common thread among them along with a desire to help others and have an impact. With each position, I was able to explore a different aspect of the law and to both learn more about the field and whether it might be a good fit for me long-term. What I’ve found through all of these experiences is that finding a good career fit is definitely a long-term process. I often advise candidates that although a position may not be perfect, every experience, every interview, provides an opportunity to learn more about what—you like and don’t like, eventually helping you get to where you want to go.
Read the full interview here.
-- Alex Tuttle, Vault.com