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.

Will You be a Job Search Winner or Loser?

There are good ways and not-so- good ways for doing a job search. Is your campaign going to be successful or is it going to languish? Here are a few questions to help you decide.

 

1) Do you have a Unique Selling Proposition? Why are you a better candidate than someone with similar experience? If you lack a clear “brand strategy,” your search will drag and you’ll miss out on interviews..

 

2) Do you have a well-defined Marketing Plan with targeted employers, decision-makers, daily search tasks and ways to reach companies directly? If you have not, you are trusting to luck.

 

3) Are you being creative in your  campaign?  If you are merely posting your resume on the web, talking with recruiters and doing some networking, you are missing out on 80% of the available positions.

 

4) Do you have a strategy for tapping the Hidden Job Market? Old-fashioned networking and job search methods will not get you there. If you are not ahead of the curve, you are behind it!

 

5) Does your resume show accomplishments or just duties? Your competitors have the same duties as you. If your resume isn’t showing results you have produced, you are under-representing yourself.

 

6) Do you have a compelling telephone introduction when calling employers? If  your plan is simply to ask if they have seen your resume, your chances of arranging an interview are minimal.

 

7) Are you sending resumes to companies that are not advertising openings? Only 7% of jobs are advertised. If a company wants to dump an employee, they don’t advertise that person’s job! Hello!?

 

Career Strategies Receives A+ Rating From the Better Business Bureau

White Plains, NY — Career Strategies is proud to announce that it has become a BBB Accredited Business and has received the highly coveted A+ Rating in Career Counseling and Outplacement.

In bestowing the new honor to Career Strategies, the BBB noted, “Your BBB Accreditation status makes a powerful statement about your commitment and consistent efforts to maintain a strong sense of accountability and responsibility. As a BBB Accredited Business,” they continued, “you work to uphold the trust and respect of your customers.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, the Accreditation and A+ rating is based on 16 different factors, including advertising, sales practices and service delivery, among others. Being granted Accredited status, said the BBB, “demonstrates your commitment to truth in advertising and gives consumers an assurance of your business’ commitment to stand behind your products and work.”

“We are deeply honored to be recognized by the Better Business Bureau,” said Bruce Blackwell, who founded Career Strategies in 1992. “We are especially proud to be given an A+, the BBB’s highest rating.” The rating system, like many schools, goes from A+ down to F.

In the all of New York State, only two Career Counseling and Outplacement businesses have been given Accredited status by the BBB. “This is a very rare honor indeed,” said Blackwell.

Accredited businesses are required to meet all applicable standards for the BBB’s Code of Business Practices, advertise its services honestly, ensure that all written materials clearly and accurately describe its services and “approach all business dealings, marketplace transactions and commitments with integrity.”

Career Strategies provides career testing and assessment to help clients identify their viable career options. It also assists job seekers by preparing resumes and marketing materials, creating personal marketing plans, distributing client resumes to companies and recruiters, and providing interview preparation and job search coaching. The company has served several thousand executives and professionals in career transition.

Career Strategies is located at 188 East Post Road, Suite 304, White Plains, NY 10601. Main line: 914-437-9230. Fax: 913-437-9229. Website: www.careerstrategiesgroup.com.

Bruce Blackwell invited to be panelist

Bruce Blackwell, founder and Managing Partner of Career Strategies, has been invited to be one of three prsenters at a Bar Association seminar on career planning for attorneys.
The seminar, entitled “Starting Early: Your Career Plan,” is being sponsored by the New York City Bar Association. According to a panel organizer, Carol Welch of Pace University School of Law and a member of the Career Transition committee for the Bar Association, “The goal of the program is to instruct the audience on the importance of creating, maintaining and revisiting a career plan from the earliest days of their legal careers.”
The program, to be held December 7, 2011 in New York City, is the first in series of three that the Bar Association will be presenting in 2011-12 on the theme of “Starting Early.” The other two sessions will be on “Business Development” (Dec. 19) and “Building Your Brand” (Jan. 19, 2012).
“I think it is wonderful that the Bar Association has recognized the need for younger attorneys to start planning their careers, building personal brands and learning the ins- and- outs of rainmaking,” said Blackwell, who has counseled several thousand attorneys on career transitions.
“So often,” he noted, “lawyers don’t really have career plans except to hope for the best and try to grow within their firms. Many of my clients have been totally at sea when they suddenly find themselves having to compete for jobs against other lawyers with similar credentials and experience. They have no ‘brand identity,’ no way to stand out from the pack.
“Even more shocking to many, especially when they become partners, is that they are no longer given work — they have to go out and generate work! They are often totally unprepared to be rainmakers. Young men and women don’t go to law school because they want to be salespersons … but succeeding in the legal profession means you also have to succeed in the sales profession.”
Career Strategies has traditionally focused on the career needs of attorneys in mid-life, but increasingly over the last few years has been assisting much younger lawyers on career development issues.

Bruce Blackwell, founder and Managing Partner of Career Strategies, has been invited to be one of three prsenters at a Bar Association seminar on career planning for attorneys.
The seminar, entitled “Starting Early: Your Career Plan,” is being sponsored by the New York City Bar Association. According to a panel organizer, Carol Welch of Pace University School of Law and a member of the Career Transition committee for the Bar Association, “The goal of the program is to instruct the audience on the importance of creating, maintaining and revisiting a career plan from the earliest days of their legal careers.”
The program, to be held December 7, 2011 in New York City, is the first in series of three that the Bar Association will be presenting in 2011-12 on the theme of “Starting Early.” The other two sessions will be on “Business Development” (Dec. 19) and “Building Your Brand” (Jan. 19, 2012).
“I think it is wonderful that the Bar Association has recognized the need for younger attorneys to start planning their careers, building personal brands and learning the ins- and- outs of rainmaking,” said Blackwell, who has counseled several thousand attorneys on career transitions.
“So often,” he noted, “lawyers don’t really have career plans except to hope for the best and try to grow within their firms. Many of my clients have been totally at sea when they suddenly find themselves having to compete for jobs against other lawyers with similar credentials and experience. They have no ‘brand identity,’ no way to stand out from the pack.
“Even more shocking to many, especially when they become partners, is that they are no longer given work — they have to go out and generate work! They are often totally unprepared to be rainmakers. Young men and women don’t go to law school because they want to be salespersons … but succeeding in the legal profession means you also have to succeed in the sales profession.”
Career Strategies has traditionally focused on the career needs of attorneys in mid-life, but increasingly over the last few years has been assisting much younger lawyers on career development issues.

Bruce Blackwell, founder and Managing Partner of Career Strategies, has been invited to be one of three prsenters at a Bar Association seminar on career planning for attorneys.The seminar, entitled “Starting Early: Your Career Plan,” is being sponsored by the New York City Bar Association. According to a panel organizer, Carol Welch of Pace University School of Law and a member of the Career Transition committee for the Bar Association, “The goal of the program is to instruct the audience on the importance of creating, maintaining and revisiting a career plan from the earliest days of their legal careers.”The program, to be held December 7, 2011 in New York City, is the first in series of three that the Bar Association will be presenting in 2011-12 on the theme of “Starting Early.” The other two sessions will be on “Business Development” (Dec. 19) and “Building Your Brand” (Jan. 19, 2012).“I think it is wonderful that the Bar Association has recognized the need for younger attorneys to start planning their careers, building personal brands and learning the ins- and- outs of rainmaking,” said Blackwell, who has counseled several thousand attorneys on career transitions.“So often,” he noted, “lawyers don’t really have career plans except to hope for the best and try to grow within their firms. Many of my clients have been totally at sea when they suddenly find themselves having to compete for jobs against other lawyers with similar credentials and experience. They have no ‘brand identity,’ no way to stand out from the pack.“Even more shocking to many, especially when they become partners, is that they are no longer given work — they have to go out and generate work! They are often totally unprepared to be rainmakers. Young men and women don’t go to law school because they want to be salespersons … but succeeding in the legal profession means you also have to succeed in the sales profession.”Career Strategies has traditionally focused on the career needs of attorneys in mid-life, but increasingly over the last few years has been assisting much younger lawyers on career development issues.

How to prepare for an interview

According to Job Seekers Weekly, before the recession it used to take an average of three interviews to get one offer. Now it takes 17 interviews. Shorten your search by preparing diligently for an interview. Research the company, the decision-makers and the job requirements. Prepare your “success stories” to show how your background and skills can meet the needs of the employer. Anticipate the questions that they are likely to ask and be especially ready to handle the questions that you don’t want them to ask. The winner isn’t the person who is most qualified for the job – the winner is the person who best shows the value that they can bring to their employer.

BASIC TENETS

We have studied the job market, career change, and job search over the years, and observed certain fundamentals about the process — “truisms” for developing and mounting a successful job search. We’ve formalized these observations into eleven Basic Tenets. Some of these points are simple, some are obvious, some need to be reflected upon … but if applied, each will help you achieve job search and career success.

Over the next week we are going to be adding additional tenets.

BASIC TENETS

1. Knowledge Is Power The more you know about the search process, about self-marketing, and about prospective employers, the more efficient and productive the campaign you can mount. The information you need in order to win is out there … all you have to do is go after it and use it.

2. You Have Control You don’t need to feel powerless over your career or job search. You can take control of the process and guide your own destiny…if you choose to.

3. Look For Unfulfilled Wants And Needs — You can create a job where none exists if you understand a targeted employer’s wants and needs … even if the employer isn’t aware of them!

4. All Change Creates Opportunity — Change is constant, and affects every organization everyday. Whenever a circumstance changes — the competitive environment, a political or regulatory change, a technological development, a market shift — that change must be addressed. Watch for changes in a company or industry, identify the opportunities those changes may create, and use them to your advantage.

5. Pitch The Benefits — Focus on what you can do for your next employer, and on how you can help them   achieve their goals and objectives. People don’t buy facts, they buy benefits. Keep this in mind always.

6. Picture Your Desired Outcome — A positive attitude and envisioning success helps bring about success. If you think like a loser, you’ll be a loser. You must picture yourself being successful in something as you begin that process, then go for it!

7. Don’t React. Act! — Never wait for a company to call you. Call them! You can’t just send out a resume and expect a call. And you can’t simply react to opportunities that are presented to you … you must be pro-active and make opportunities happen.

8. Persevere — It takes time, patience and continued effort to be successful in a job search, or in any endeavor. Quitters don’t win … and winners don’t quit. Develop a plan, work the plan, and stay with it.

9. It Takes Just As Much Effort to Get a Job You Don’t Like As It Does to Get One You Do Like You will spend most of your waking hours at work, and you have one life to live. Don’t waste it! Go for what you really want.

10. The Best Man Doesn’t Always Win — You’re competing against people who are every bit as qualified for the job as you, maybe even more so. The key to beating the competition is truly understanding the employer’s needs, effectively communicating your relevant strengths, and demonstrating how you, more than anyone else, can fulfill the mission of that job. The best man doesn’t always win; the man who is best prepared wins.

11. Don’t Assume That Just Because There Are No Vacancies, There Are No Jobs — If you learn about an organization, identify its unfulfilled wants and needs, show the benefits you can bring to it, persist in your efforts and picture yourself succeeding, you can literally create a job where none existed.
These are 11 simple concepts that work. They’ll give you control over your job search and enable you to achieve things you never before thought possible.
—- Bruce Blackwell

7 Questions to Ask about Your Job Search

If  you are an attorney looking for an in-house position, the competition is ferocious. It always has been. The quality of the people who are competing for in-house jobs is also extremely high.

In order to prevail over the competition, you need to be doing several things. Here is a quick check list of questions to ask yourself about your job search campaign.

1) Have you identified your Unique Selling Proposition? What makes you a better candidate than someone with like kind and quality of experience? If you do not have a clear “brand strategy,” your search will take much longer. You will miss out on interviews for jobs you could have won.

2) Do you have a well-defined Marketing Plan? Have you identified your target market, the people who can hire you, the companies where you best fit, and the information sources you need to stay current about changes affecting your potential employers? Have you established a specific methodology for your campaign? If you have not, you are trusting to luck.

3) Are you being creative in your approach to the job market? If you are merely posting your resume on job boards, responding to advertised positions on the internet, talking with recruiters and doing some networking, you are taking necessary steps. But, you are also doing what everyone else is doing! Even worse, you are missing out on literally 80% of the available positions, since that is the percentage of jobs filled each year that are not posted on the internet or listed with recruiters.

4) Do you have a strategy for reaching the Hidden Job Market? Since most of the available positions are not advertised or listed with recruiters, you will need more than old-fashioned networking to reach into this “hidden” market. There are many job search tools available if you look for them and know how to use them. (Part 1 of our “Innovative vs. Traditional Job Search webinar” lists 8-10 lead sources. How many can you name?) Knowledge is power. How knowledgeable are you about job search?

5) Does your resume show your accomplishments, or simply your practice areas? Your competitors have had essentially the same duties and experiences that you have had. What makes you more attractive than they are? If your resume isn’t showing results you have produced, you are under-representing yourself.

6) Do you have a compelling telephone introduction when calling the people who can hire you? If your plan for calling the hiring executives is simply to ask if they have seen your resume and would they like to meet you, your chances of arranging an interview are minimal.

7) Do you have a plan for reaching companies that are passively seeking candidates? Many organizations are thinking about adding to staff or replacing an out-of-favor attorney, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet on that process. Reaching organizations when new jobs are in the formative stage is a great way to pre-empt your competitors.

If you have (honestly) answered “yes” to these seven questions, then we applaud you and you probably don’t need us. But if you have answered “no” to even one or two of these questions, then you are likely to be spending a lot longer on your job search than you need to or want to.

We have guided about 2,000 senior lawyers through successful job search campaigns. Perhaps we can do the same for you.

Branding — Are you a better candidate than another lawyer?

A key to success in marketing is to have a clear brand strategy — to create an understanding in the marketplace about how your product is different from, and a better value than, another similar product.   Without a clear brand strategy, you will not be successful in the marketplace. This holds just as true for job seekers as it does for consumer product marketers.

Back the day, when General Motors was the leading car company not only in America, but in the world, each product line had a unique brand strategy. Chevrolet was the budget model. Pontiac was the fun, sporty model. Oldsmobile was the conservative model for our parents. Cadillac was for the rich. Over time, GM amalgamated all of its models, and you couldn’t tell a Chevy from a Pontiac or an Olds, and even Cadillac dabbled with less expensive models (remember the Cadillac Cimmaron? It was just a re-badged Chevrolet!). They were all parity products build on the same platforms, with the same look and same engines.

The result? Market confusion and a loss of brand identity. So what happened? GM lost its supremacy in the world market. It is not even America’s #1car maker anymore. Pontiac and Oldsmobile have disappeared. GM simply couldn’t compete against the other car makers whose products were easier to define and whose value was more apparent.   The same concept holds true for attorney job seekers. How is an employer supposed to tell the difference between legal job applicants who have the same experience in the same practice areas?  They can’t. This makes it much tougher for an attorney to prevail against the competition in the job market.

I have spoken with literally 20,000 attorneys over the last 20 years. That’s about 20 per week, week-in and week-out. They all claim to have the same core skills.   What are you good at? Write down 5 or 6 things on a sheet of paper, then come back to this blog article. (roll theme music from “Jeopardy) … OK, ready? Here’s what many of you will have said are your core talents:

1. research

2. writing

3. analyzing

4. problem-solving

5. advising

6. learning new things quickly

7. negotiating

If this is the best you can come up with, you need to do better. There is hardly a lawyer out there who cannot say that they lack any of the talents listed above. You can’t triumph against your competitors if you are making the same claims as they are.

I am not saying that these are not valuable skills. But you need to offer more. A Chevy and a BMW both have four tires and a steering wheel, and both will get you to work in the morning — but which would you rather drive?  If you think you are a BMW-level attorney, are you positioning yourself in the market as a Chevy?  If so, start doing some serious thinking about your brand strategy so you can gain a competitive edge in the hunt for a new job.

The Seven Steps to a Successful In-House Job Search

One day not long ago I spoke with the General Counsels of six publicly held companies with capitalizations of $500 million to $1.5 billion. They each were looking to be GCs somewhere else.

These were very talented attorneys. Each had experience in compliance, SEC rules and corporate governance. They each had managed outside counsel in complex nationwide litigation. They each were experienced in negotiating domestic and international transactions, including licensing deals. They each had administrative management roles beyond just the legal department … they were integral members of their companies’ senior management teams.

These were six very smart and successful General Counsels, each of whom felt they were special and uniquely credentialed.

But the reality is that each one was the same as the other. Competitively, they were at parity. There was no way an employer could tell the difference between them. None of these six people had a clear “brand strategy” to differential themselves from their competitors.

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