The Top 10 Reasons Why Lawyers Seek Alternative Careers – Part 1 of 2

The law can be a wonderful profession, and it is for many people. But it can also be draining and frustrating. Even for those who love the profession, after practicing for 10, 15, 20 years or more, some lawyers are simply ready for a change. Nowhere is it written that you must stay with one career your entire life.

My colleagues and I have counseled several thousand lawyers on re-careering and job search issues. Based on our nearly 23 years of experience, we have compiled The Top 10 Reasons for Wanting to Leave the Law.

We are going to share 5 of them today. We are going to discuss the second 5 in an upcoming issue, but if you don’t want to wait, just email us at info@careerstrategiesgroup.com and we will send it to you right away.

THE #1 REASON WHY LAWYERS WANT TO LEAVE THE PRACTICE …..

#1: Quality of Life — law firm and solo practice attorneys typically put in 10-12 hour days and often work on weekends. They have little time with their families, and little energy left to enjoy the fruits of their labors. They may be making good money, but there’s no time to do anything with it.  If you are single, the demands of your work make it hard to develop a relationship. If you are married, it’s hard to maintain a relationship. And if you are parent, you miss your children’s Little League games, back-to-school nights and much of their growing up. It is no wonder that many of the people who call us are in their late 30s and mid-40s, and realize the best things in life are passing them by while they write midnight motions and memoranda.

#2: Billable hours — clients often report they are under increasing pressure to produce billable hours.

In some cases, clients say they are under more pressure to produce billables than they are to produce quality work. The system is designed so that you are rewarded for how many hours you bill rather than how well you represent the interests of your clients.

#3. Business Development – People don’t go to law school because they want to be salesmen. Many of our clients like the work of being a lawyer, but do not like the constant reality of having to “sell” their services. The cold, hard fact of law firm or solo life is that you have to get the business to do the business. If you can’t generate a sizeable book of new client billings each year, you will have a hard time being truly successful in your career as a law firm attorney.

#4. Negative, adversarial environment — every day, it’s a battle. Instead of creating win-win scenarios,

there’s tremendous pressure to savage the opposition, and to make simple issues more difficult. There’s needless posturing, bellicosity and pounding of chests when in reality, the same issues could be easily and amicably resolved if both sides were simply reasonable. But that’s not the system. Our clients tell us they not only have to fight opposing clients, they also often have to fight with other lawyers within their own firm. Most disaffected lawyers would prefer to be in an atmosphere that is cooperative and collegial. Wouldn’t you?

#5. Roteness/Boredom – after years of handling similar issues, a “been there, done that” mentality

can set in and, except for rare cases, the work can become no longer challenging. Lawyers, as a breed, are “smarter than the average bear” and have a low boredom threshold. They like “solving puzzles” and being creative, but after 10, 15 or more years doing the same thing, the thrill is gone. Often, you can predict the outcome of a case within a few minutes after reading the file, but you have to go through all of the motions anyway.

So why do unhappy attorneys stay in law firms or private practice?

There are two key obstacles to career change for lawyers. A common concern among attorneys is a lack of awareness of what else they can do besides lawyering. A second issue is a lack of awareness of the types of positions that exist in the ‘outside’ world. Both of these problems can be overcome.

If there’s anything I have learned after so many years of counseling attorneys, it’s that lawyers have the intellectual horsepower to learn just about anything. They have analytical skills, research abilities, problem solving skills and both written and verbal presentation talents —  that’s not a bad platform for a career change. What company couldn’t make good use of someone with those talents?”

We  provide a full range of services for attorneys in transition. Our specialty is career change for attorneys in mid-life who are seeking to explore career alternatives, either in the law or in business, academics or non-profit agency administration.  We serve clients nationally. A boutique-sized practice, we limit ourselves to accepting just over 100 new cases per year.

If you are an attorney thinking about exploring your career options, call Career Strategies today.

Guide to Finding a New Job During the Holidays

There is a myth out there that says that companies don’t hire during the holidays. But it’s just that…a myth. Just ask the jobseeker who was offered a job on Black Friday. Or the one who was invited in for a second interview two days before Christmas.

Putting your job search on hold between Thanksgiving and New Year’s isn’t just a bad idea — it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If you’re not looking for a job during the holidays, you’re not going to find one.

Employers hire all 12 months of the year. In fact, many new positions are funded to start with a new budget year — which often coincides with a new calendar year. Other hiring managers have hiring budgets that must be spent before the end of the year — “use it or lose it.” Both of these scenarios offer opportunities for jobseekers in December.

The holidays also offer some natural opportunities to network and spread the word about your job search: there are company parties, social gatherings, end-of-the-year professional association events, and even Christmas cards and letters. Many of these strategies are available whether you’re unemployed or if you have a job but are looking to improve your job situation.

Working on your job search during the holidays may also mean less competition from other candidates who put their job search on hold. Many people wait until January — making it a New Year’s Resolution — to look for a new job. If you wait until January 2 to start — or resume — your job search, you’ll have more competition.

It may even be easier to connect with a hiring manager during December as many key personnel are in the office while lower level staff takes paid holiday time off during the month.

Even if you aren’t offered a job in December, you can lay a lot of the groundwork by making connections before the end of the year, making it more likely that you’ll be hired quickly in the new year.

11 Ideas for Job Searching During the Holidays

Here are some specific strategies you can use in your holiday job search.

Accept all invitations you receive for holiday parties and get-togethers. Whether it’s a social or charity event, dinner party, spouse’s Christmas party, or professional association event, use these opportunities to reacquaint yourself with people who might be useful in your job search, and make new connections. Be sure to follow-up.

Re-connect with old friends and colleagues. Your network can be a great source of information, job leads, and referrals. Get back in touch with previous co-workers and supervisors, people from high school and college, former neighbors, etc.

Host your own holiday party. It doesn’t have to be anything formal or elaborate. Hosting your own holiday open house, dinner party, or get-together can help jumpstart your job search (but that shouldn’t be the focus of your party, of course!). However, extending an invitation is a great excuse to reach out and talk with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while!

Ask for specific information or help. For example, ask if the person knows anyone who works at “x” company instead of asking if they know of anyone hiring. During the holidays, your contacts might have more time to be of assistance, and they might be in a mood to be generous at this time of the year!

Volunteer. There are many opportunities during the holidays to give your time to charities and organizations. Some of these opportunities might also help you build your network, make new connections, and bolster your résumé.

Use holiday cards to connect. If Christmas cards, holiday letters, and e-greetings are part of your end-of-the-year tradition, mentioning your job search (if you’re currently unemployed, or your position is ending) can be a useful strategy. Let people know you’re looking!

Create a business networking card. Develop a business card that lists your contact information and social media links — especially to your LinkedIn profile. You can use this in lieu of your normal business card — or instead of it, if you’re unemployed.

Update your social media presence. If you don’t yet have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to create yours. If you have one, give it a fresh look. Is it time to update it? Can you increase your number of Connections — or solicit additional Recommendations?

Look for opportunities to get your foot in the door. If you’re currently unemployed, look for temporary or seasonal jobs that may lead to full-time positions.

Connect with recruiters. Many are trying to reach year-end recruiting goals at this time of the year, and you may have just the skills they are looking for.

Set a specific goal for your job search. Instead of setting a goal to get a new job, your goal might be to make a certain number of new connections or to schedule a certain number of informational interviews. Making progress on this type of goal will ultimately help you achieve your goal of a new job.

Make sure you’re reachable. You might be asked to interview at unusual times — for example, the day before Christmas. Keep your phone on — and make sure you’re checking your voice mail and email regularly!

 

Challenges To Overcome With a Holiday Job Search

Conducting a job search in December isn’t without its challenges, however. While some hiring managers are hard at work throughout the month, others may be on vacation. Some companies also close during the week from Christmas to New Year’s Day.

The holidays can also distract you from your job search. Shopping, vacations, family activities, and holiday parties can all take away time from your job search, if you’re not careful.

Check your attitude, too. The holidays are a season of joy and thankfulness, but that can be tough when you’re out of work. However, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude — or at least “fake it until you make it.” Even if you’re not feeling it, “act as if” you are, because employers want to hire positive, optimistic employees.

Also, don’t overextend yourself during the holidays. Be sure to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat well.

And watch out for holiday employment scams. In your desire to make extra cash for the holidays, don’t get caught up in job-related scams — like fake mystery shopping gigs, package processing rip-offs, or work-at-home cons. Check out job opportunities carefully, and never accept payments for work you haven’t done yet. And never deposit a check into your account and wire or transfer payments out before the payment has fully cleared (wait at least two weeks).

Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything back right away. Because a lot of people use their accumulated vacation time before the end of the year, you may find yourself waiting a bit longer than usual for a response to your résumé or follow-up after a job interview. Be patient, but persistent.

If it’s your goal to find a new job in the new year, don’t put off your job search just because it’s the holiday season. A job search that starts in December gives you the opportunity to get hired before the end of the year — or to have momentum and a head start on other candidates once the calendar turns over on January 1.

The 21 Questions You Need to Ask in a Job Interview

It’s Not About Me, It’s About You!

[Editor’s Note: Job interviewing is a two-way process; it is not just about answering questions, it is about asking questions, too! The right questions! We are pleased to present this insightful article by Marc Cenedella, Chairman of TheLadders.]

By Marc Cenedella

Ask these questions in your next job interview and watch the hiring manager’s face light up.
It’s time for my twice-a-year update of the best questions for you to ask in an interview.

I’ve put this list together because so often we can forget what an interview’s all about. It sure feels like it’s about you, but it’s really not.

An interview is actually about how you can help your future boss and future employer succeed. It’s about finding out what their requirements and hopes are and matching up your background and experience with what they need.

Overlooking these basic facts about the interview is easy. There’s so much else going on in your work, your life, and in your job search, that you can forget to look at the interview from the interviewer’s point of view. And that’s a shame, because you need the interviewer to walk away from the interview thoroughly impressed.

When I ran these questions previously, commenter “spiderji” wrote in and said:
Marc, I used some of your questions in a job interview today. When I asked how to get a “gold star” on the evaluation, the interviewers faces lit up!” I contrast today’s interview with others I’ve been on where I didn’t have any meaningful questions at the end. This one was electric! I won’t know the results for a couple of days, but if they hire me I’ll owe you a drink! Thank you!

And reader LBRZ shared:
I have to thank you! I had an interview yesterday and it went great. When I asked about his leadership style and reward system his face lit up like a Christmas tree.

After he answered the question “how can I help you receive your next promotion?”, he began to give me advice on how I should negotiate for a higher starting salary.

And that’s exactly the point, Readers. By asking these questions, which focus on the needs, traits, and preferences of your future boss and future employer, you’re demonstrating that you are somebody who is genuinely interested in their well-being. And the more interest we show in others, the more commitment they show to aiding our cause.

With that in mind, here’s the twice-a-year update to my collection of “best interview questions” below. My aim here is to arm you with easy-to-ask, revealing-to-answer questions for you to take with you to an interview:

1. What’s the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year? Does your group feel like the tough times are over and things are getting better, or are things still pretty bleak? What’s the plan to handle to either scenario?

2. If I get the job, how do I earn a “gold star” on my performance review? What are the key accomplishments you’d like to see in this role over the next year?

3. What’s your (or my future boss’) leadership style?

4. About which competitor are you most worried?

5. How does sales / operations / technology / marketing / finance work around here? (I.e., groups other than the one you’re interviewing for.)

6. What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?

7. What’s one thing that’s key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?

8. How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?

9. What are your group’s best and worst working relationships with other groups in the company? What are the pain points you have to deal with day-to-day?

10. What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest worry these days?

11. What’s the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you?

12. These are tough economic times, and every position is precious when it comes to the budget. Why did you decide to hire somebody for this position instead of the many other roles / jobs you could have hired for? What about this position made you prioritize it over others?

13. What is your reward system? Is it a star system / team-oriented / equity-based / bonus-based / “attaboy!”-based? Why is that your reward system? What do you guys hope to get out of it, and what actually happens when you put it into practice? What are the positives and the negatives of your reward system? If you could change any one thing, what would it be?

14. What information is shared with the employees (revenues, costs, operating metrics)? Is this an “open book” shop, or do you play it closer to the vest? How is information shared? How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?

15. If we are going to have a very successful year in 2015, what will that look like? What will we have done over the next 6 months to make it successful? How does this position help achieve those goals? (This question helps show your ability to look beyond today’s duties to the future more than a year away.)

16. How does the company / my future boss do performance reviews? How do I make the most of the performance review process to ensure that I’m doing the best I can for the company?

17. What is the rhythm to the work around here? Is there a time of year that it’s “all hands on deck” and we’re pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week / month? Is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week / month, or are there crunch days?

18. What type of industry / functional / skills-based experience and background are you looking for in the person who will fill this position? What would the “perfect” candidate look like? How do you assess my experience in comparison? What gaps do you see?

19. What is your (or my future boss’) hiring philosophy? Is it “hire the attitude / teach the skills” or are you primarily looking to add people with domain expertise first and foremost?

20. In my career, I’ve primarily enjoyed working with big / small / growing / independent / private / public / family-run companies. If that’s the case, how successful will I be at your firm?

21. Who are the heroes at your company? What characteristics do the people who are most celebrated have in common with each other? Conversely, what are the characteristics that are common to the promising people you hired, but who then flamed out and failed or left? As I’m considering whether or not I’d be successful here, how should I think about the experiences of the heroes and of the flame-outs?

I hope you find these questions useful in your interviews, Readers! Have a great week in the job search!

Marc Cenedella is the Chairman of TheLadders, an on-line job-matching service. Follow Marc on Twitter at @Cenedella

Thoughts on Barbara Walters’ Retirement

When I was going to have dinner with Barbara Walters, my plan was to rip her a new one, to excoriate her, and show her to be a light-weight pretender. This was back more than a few years ago. I was a columnist with millions of readers in 82 newspapers around the U.S. I was going to expose this heartless fluff bag. The $3 million woman, my rear end! I was out to get that shark, the person who belittled, embarrassed and trod all over a real journalist, the widely respected Harry Reasoner.

OMG, as they say today. Was I ever wrong. I mean seriously wrong. Barbara Walters was a fascinating dinner companion. She was intelligent. She had a tremendous grasp of all sorts of issues. She was kind. Most surprisingly to me, she was gracious and genteel; very far from shark-like. She was entertaining and engaging.

I was fortunate, because of my position, to have been able to dine with some very well known entertainers, business leaders and politicians. Barbara Walters would have to be right at the head of my list of truly memorable people. She won’t remember me at all (I was, after all, a print journalist, not a broadcast one!) but I think I became a better professional through what I learned that night.

Back in those days, there was still such a thing as journalism. People who reported the news as accurately, and objectively as they could. People who actually strove to separate fact from opinion. People who tried to find and report the truth. Barbara Walters was one of those. And one of the best of them.

We wish her well on her retirement. She will be missed.

10 things to REALLY IRK a recruiter PART 2

As a career counselor for the last 22 years, I use my experience to help executives and attorneys find alternative careers or conduct their job searches more efficiently. This is oftentimes high end consulting dealing with complex career issues and job search strategies for those in mid-career or aged 50+.

 

Sometimes, though, my job is to stop people from shooting themselves in the foot and sabotaging their job search campaigns.

 

I am primarily a career transition advisor, but on rare occasion I function as a recruiter. I am told by experienced recruiters that finding candidates is easy, but finding GOOD candidates is hard. Now I understand why. Here is Part Two of our story on 10 Really Stupid Things job seekers do to peeve the people who can help them get work.

6. Ask us to call you at 8 p.m. –

Recruiters don’t have lives. We work 24/7 for the love of it. We understand that one cannot always talk at the office. But instead of offering to call us back during your lunch hour or on your way back from a meeting or court appearance later in the day, endear yourself to us by telling us to stay at our office so we can call you at night. That way you are sure to become one of our recommended candidates and we will be most eager to help you in your job search.

 

7. Ask us to call you back later –

We call you and get you at a bad time. You can’t talk. You can make it easier on us by saying you will be available after 3 or whenever and will call us back then – or you can make it harder for us by asking us to call you some other time. Well, let’s see. I have a stack of 146 resumes from job seekers  I need to call TODAY. (Yes, recruiters can be expected to dial 100 or more candidates PER DAY.) Of course, I am going to put your resume ahead of all the others I need to call. You are special!

 

8. Keep pestering us about your status –

We like your background. You were one of a handful of candidates we sent to the hiring partner to evaluate. Probably others recruiters are sending candidates, too. We want you to win the job so we can get paid. When we hear from the hiring authority about your candidacy – yes, no or maybe – we will tell you. It does not bother us at all if we have to reply to frequent emails or phone calls from you inquiring about your status, when we have nothing to report. Heck, no.

 

9. Apply for jobs in states where you don’t live and aren’t admitted

We love to use our imagination and try to ascertain why you reside in MO but are applying for a job in NY where you are not admitted, have never practiced law and have never even lived in – especially when the posting says you must have deep familiarity with NY courts. Of course our client will be more than happy to relocate you to our state, indoctrinate you in NY civil procedure, and have a 2nd year drive you around the 5 boroughs, show you the courts, and introduce you to the courtroom staff. There’s no one already in our State just like you!

 

10. Don’t get back to us after we have tried to reach you –

We have spent hours, days even, researching candidates and matching credentials with the job specs. On paper, you are a good candidate, which is why we are calling you and sending you emails to find out if you’d be interested in talking about the position. Play hard to get and holier than thou by not letting us know about your interest one way or the other, so we can spend more time chasing you. It makes us really want to help you!

 +++

If you are looking for a new job, or an alternative career, do yourself a favor and make it easy for hiring managers to find you and speak with you. Just avoid making these 10 silly errors and you can start moving your career forward.

 

10 things to REALLY IRK a recruiter

Confessions of a legal head hunter

If you want to sabotage your career and miss out on good jobs because of ego, stupidity or sloth, then pay attention! I am going to give you some career-breaker tips – straight from the real world.

I am a career counselor for lawyers. People pay me for my advice and my 22+ years experience in helping clients find new positions. But sometimes I function as a recruiter, and am paid by the hiring company to find lawyers for job openings. I am on a recruiting assignment right now – I have jobs to fill, for free to the taker!

But now I understand why other recruiters tell me that finding good candidates is a struggle. Some job seekers act like they don’t want to find jobs.

In this two-part series, we are going to look at 10 Really Stupid Things job seekers do that frustrate the bejeepers out of recruiters.

Here are five of the dumb things I have seen job-seeking attorneys do in just the last few weeks of doing this search.

1. Don’t put your name on both pages of your resume –
Make it hard for recruiters to get your whole story by leaving your name and contact information off your resume’s second page. We may get hundreds of resumes within a few hours posting a job opening. We print them out in batches. The pages get mixed up. If we find a loose page 2 with education and admissions on it, but we can’t immediately match it to the page 1, guess what happens to the resume? Nothing. It is put in the garbage.

2. Make sure to leave your old cell phone number on your resume —
You apply to our job posting by sending in your resume. We like your background. We call you. We get a message that, “the number you have called is no longer in service.” People change cell phone carriers the way they change underwear. If you don’t want us to call you, leave your old cell number on your new resume. The same goes for your email address; if you were Syracuse Law ’06, you are probably not @syracuse.edu anymore, but no need to keep your resume updated.

3. Ask us to go to your LinkedIn page to get your contact info and resume —
Instead of making it easier for the recruiter to call you about a job opportunity by giving us your phone number, make it hard for us. Tell us to go to your LinkedIn page to get your information, because we have nothing better to do than to spend our time trying to find you so we can offer you jobs and money.

4. Deny that you sent in your resume –
This one happened to me today. We received a resume in email account that we reserve for replies to posted positions. We liked what we saw. The candidate didn’t remember sending the resume to us. That’s OK, because in an active job search, you can send out lots of resumes. But this candidate not only said he didn’t remember sending it, he categorically denied that he sent it. Well then, have a nice day. Click.

5. Don’t put your email address and phone on your resume –
I couldn’t make this one up. We received a resume with NO contact information. No email. No phone. No city. No state. No joke. If you really don’t want the posted job, then send in a resume that makes it impossible for us to find you!

End of Part One. NEXT TIME: 5 More Really Dumb Things you can do to sabotage your job search.

6-month, interest-free financing now available! No need to use your credit card or checkbook!

Now you can take advantage of Career Strategies’ expertise and resources without having to hit your bank account or credit card. We are extremely pleased to announce we have been accepted as a Pay Pal / Bill Me Later merchant. Bill Me Later is not a credit card but is like one — it provides six-months of interest free financing to qualified persons, and offers even longer payment terms at a very reasonable interest rate. Very few people have “career counseling and job search assistance” in their budgets. This has made it difficult, sometimes impossible, for clients to retain us to help them in their career development. Career Strategies is not a bank — we are career counselors — and typically over the last 21 years of our practice, all we could manage was to allow clients to put down a meaningful deposit and pay off their balances in two or three months. That put us out of the reach of many people who wanted to use us. Since people can now purchase our services with a small down payment and long-term installment plan, that problem largely goes away. Our goal has always been to help people find jobs — the best jobs they can command, at the best salaries, in the best organizations. This new Pay Pal / Bill Me Later program will make it possible for us to help many more people — perhaps you!

Relying on Classifieds, Recruiters and Networking? You Lose.

Most  people want to find new jobs as quickly as possible, but they rely on the slowest and least productive job search methods — classifieds, recruiters and old-fashioned networking. These traditional methods are all most people know about, and are resulting in job searches taking months and months longer than they need to.

 

According to a just-released study by the highly respected Career Thought Leaders Consortium, 55%  of  executive and professional searches are taking 6 months or more, and a whopping 41% are taking from 11 to 24+ months! This is for a group where 89% of respondents were in very senior or C-level positions, and 90% were professionals age 40 and up.

 

There is no reason for campaigns to take this long. A career coach can help shorten your search by helping you find companies and by helping companies find you. We can speed up your campaign by providing you with new resources based on internet and database technologies. At Career Strategies, we spend hours and hours each month researching new on-line resume distribution tools and company information resources.

 

If you want to shorten your job search, call us TODAY.  914-437-9230

Hard job search facts of life learned by Dewey associates

Even if you are from a top law school and global law firm, winning in today’s marketplace takes more than just good credentials – it takes good marketing.

That lesson has become painfully clear to the many Associates and Of Counsel at Dewey LeBoeuf who have still not landed jobs following the collapse of that once-great law firm earlier this year.  The powers-who-once-were at Dewey sponsored a job search seminar for their former colleagues in New York City last week.  I was among a few career professionals who were asked to be panelists.

Differentiating yourself from other attorneys with similar experience, and getting past the obvious job search method of going online, hitting “apply” and praying, were the focus of my remarks at that panel.  I addressed these topics, and more, during a formal presentation, and then spent several hours leading two different workshop groups and answering questions.

I shared the dais with Margarett Williams, an Assistant Dean of Touro Law School; Katie Calabrese of Paul Weiss’ HR Dept.; and Sheryl Odentz, an experienced law firm outplacement consultant. All are former attorneys who ultimately transitioned to the legal career counseling and human resource side. Each panelist brought a unique perspective to the presentation,  and we all basically agreed with each other about how a proper job search should be done.

Showing potential employers why they should hire you vs. another attorney with similar experience, and being creative in your approach to job search by not relying on online postings and recruiters, are concepts that are valuable, if not critical, for all job seekers, young and old alike.

In a competitive market where the supply of qualified attorneys is greater than the demand for them – both in-house and in law firms – competing successfully requires a competitive edge, and breaking away from the clutter of the hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes that are received for jobs posted on the internet.

Even for cream-of-the-crop candidates like those from a great firm like Dewey LeBoeuf, applying the same old job search methods that everyone else is using is just not enough anymore.

I was pleased to be able to share my expertise with these young (and some not so young) attorneys, and would welcome the opportunity of doing so for you.  Please feel free to give me a call so that we can talk about your career situation and how I may be able to help you.

 

Think recruiters can help you? Think again!

This is the toughest job market in 75 years, yet (allegedly) intelligent attorneys are being just plain stupid when it comes to their job search strategies.

If they want to remain ignorant fools, that’s their business – they can stay miserable in their jobs or watch themselves sink slowly into insolvency because they can’t find other work. Hopefully you are not like these poor schnooks — if you are smart enough to be reading this, then perhaps you really do want to make a positive change in your career.

I am a legal recruiter and job search coach who has talked with about 1,000 lawyers a year for the last 20+ years. Most of these attorneys are clueless about what recruiters can do for them. They don’t have faintest idea about what constitutes a “recruitable” candidate.

What I am about to tell you does not apply to executive recruiters, but most certainly does apply to legal recruiters. Go to Lawjobs.com or any other job site for lawyers, spend five minutes reading the postings, and you will see that what I am telling you is true.

In my practice, we started as career counselors, and eventually added recruiting to our services. As with any legal recruiters, we get 20-30% of a candidate’s first year salary as our fee. If you are in the $125,000 range and we place you, we will receive from $25,000 to $37,500. If we were to work with you on career testing and assessment to identify your career options, we would receive from $1,300 to $2,900 for the testing and evaluation, depending upon how many hours were involved in your testing program.

I am not stupid. Don’t you think I would rather make $25,000 for putting in the 20 to 30 hours so hours it would take me to find, screen and submit a candidate, than to make less than $3,000 for spending 12-14 hours on a career counseling case? Hello?

However, most of the people who call us are not recruitable candidates. We are able to help the few who are, and they make it economically possible for us to continue as counselors for those who are not. Truth be known, we actually prefer the counseling side so we are happy with this arrangement.

Here are the realities of the legal recruiting profession.

1. Legal recruiters are used by firms and companies to find candidates who exactly matchthe specifications of an open job, and who have the requisite practice area skills and experience. Recruiters will not submit, for example, a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney for a commercial litigation position.

2. The prime market for legal recruiters is young lawyers with from 1 to 6 years of experience. Once you have crossed the 7th or 8th year mark, you are no longer considered “recruitable.”

3. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if you are beyond your 7th or 8th year, you can be recruitable IF you have a verifiable book of portable business. Depending upon where you live, this typically means $175,000 to $1 million.

4. The term “top academics” will appear in many recruiter ads. This means 1) top 10% or 15% of your law school class and  2) Top 10, 15 or 20 law school. If you were in the very top of your class – I mean, first, second or third — at a lesser ranked law school, you may also be considered.

5. Age matters in legal recruiting. Discrimination is, in fact, legal. A recruiter friend of mine who wanted my help in finding a candidate told me they wanted someone from the class of 2006, 2007 or 2009. “What about 2008”, I asked. “Oh no, no 2008s. They don’t have any slots for an ’08,” I was told.

6. Recruiters do not handle many in-house jobs. Two recent studies have shown that only 5% of in-house positions are filled by recruiters. Companies do not want to spend money on recruiters unless they have to. Nearly all law firm lawyers would prefer to go in-house. There is an oversupply of willing candidates that a company can attract without spending tens of thousands of dollars on recruiting fees.

7. When recruiters do get in–house assignments, it is almost always for an attorney with very specific skill sets in a particular discipline: SEC ’34 and ’36 Act, ERISA, pharmaceutical patents, FCC regulations and so on. They seldom use recruiters to find generalists.

8. Most often when a legal recruiter does get an in-house assignment, the hiring company wants a candidate with prior in-house experience. I think this is stupid, quite frankly, but it is what it is. As a career counselor, I once helped a law firm attorney land a position as a corporate general counsel. He then hired me as a recruiter to help staff his legal department. Like so many others, he only wanted attorneys with in-house experience. “But Bill,” I said, “you didn’t have any in-house experience when they hired you.” “Yes,” he replied, “but that was different.”  OK, sure.

9. Recruiters are salespeople who are only interested in getting a fee. They do not care about your best interests, they care about their bank accounts. There is nothing wrong with this! They are paid to find people to fill positions. If you match one of their open positions, recruiters will try to get you to accept a job that you don’t really want so they can earn a commission. You are just a fee to them.

10. If you are at a career crossroads and are not sure what you want to do next professionally, recruiters cannot help you. Recruiters are not career counselors. They are not schooled in career assessment. They are not marketing professionals or trained resume writers. Most legal recruiters – in fact, every legal recruiter I have ever met – are former attorneys. They are deal-makers who try to find candidates who match an employer’s job specification.

Like many lawyers, you probably want to see “what else is out there” for you that is not another law firm job, that  frees you from the nastiness of litigation and billable hours requirements, and that provides a more collegial atmosphere, better quality of life, and a consistent income. If you expect to achieve this through a legal recruiter, then good luck! I wish you all possible success. Stranger things have happened and you might get lucky – but probably not.

As an attorney, you are smart enough not to take on cases outside of your area of legal expertise; you refer the case to other lawyers who are more qualified in that area than you. Don’t expect legal recruiters  to give you good counsel and assistance on issues that are not within their practice areas and which are outside their expertise.