In today’s legal market, firms and corporations are looking to resolve the diversity challenges for which the industry has long been known.
Law firms and corporations want diverse candidates and diverse workplaces.
Legal headhunters can make an impact responding to the diversity that firms and corporations seek. Candidates for legal positions – especially minorities —can greatly benefit from a legal recruiter’s advocacy, especially in their journey toward the best-fit job.
Here’s how they can help:
1. Legal headhunters are advocates for candidates
Legal headhunters are more than just researchers and talent-seekers; they are counselors, networkers and teachers. They look beyond a candidate’s resume, asking crucial questions, and they coach candidates through the recruitment process.
Ross Booher, CEO of Latitude, has over fifteen years of experience as an attorney. He knows that legal headhunters are often the turning point for candidates, especially minorities and women:
“Clients value their firms having a diverse team of attorneys working on their matters so they can benefit from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. We frequently discover that a candidate has skills or experiences that are very relevant to our clients’ needs that the candidate has not included on their resume or would not know to bring up in an interview.”
Only through conversing with a legal recruiter does the unique background and perspective of a candidate come to light. These attributes are often less pronounced on paper, but they can be greatly beneficial to their professional lives. Recruiters highlight these skills when advocating for candidates before a firm, which can make a world of a difference for candidates’ placements and their futures.
2. Elite legal recruiters help women and minorities find the right cultural fit
Legal headhunters help place candidates within a firm that offers the right kind of work environment and professional culture. Considering these aspects of job placement can help create long-lasting satisfaction between legal professionals and their employers.
Michelle Bigler, of Milwaukee-based MB Attorney Search, is a legal recruiter with 20 years of experience advocating for and successfully placing candidates in the firms with which she works. With her knowledge of the industry, she knows that the right cultural fit can make all the difference for legal professionals who need a healthy integration of their professional and personal lives, especially for diverse and female attorneys:
“There are firms that value face-time and there are firms that allow and embrace remote working. So, if you have a parent of a young child that does not want to jump off the career ladder, but that wants to continue having a sophisticated legal career, we look for the firms that will embrace the flexibility. That attorney can bet the job done, but they can work from their house if they need to.”
These recruiters have insight into the culture of a given firm. Booher explains:
“We are also able to give the candidate additional background detail outside of just a job posting or list of responsibilities, such as details of the culture of the law firm or legal department, which can help ensure a particular position is the right fit on multiple levels for a candidate.”
Legal headhunters can take a candidate’s background and specific situation into account as they help match them with the right firm in the recruiting process. They are aware of law firm and corporate culture, and they want to create positive matches for candidates and their clients.
3. Legal recruiters can be engaged with diversity initiatives
Andi Cullins, who has been with Washington, D.C.-based The McCormick Group, Inc. for over twenty years, explains a common situation within firms wherein young associates – especially women and minorities – may become lost in the mix at a firm, largely due to implicit bias. According to Cullins, this is because of what she refers to as an inequitable distribution of work specific to the early years of an attorney’s career. What that results in, she explains, is a longer-term career hindrance wherein “the woman or the minority candidate doesn’t have the same client exposure, and so they’re not able to build their book of business.”
Cullins recognizes this inequality, and actively engages in diversity initiatives to try to resolve it. She is committed to improving diversity in law firms:
“We have a group that we call the Lateral Partner Recruiter’s Round Table. We have about 15-20 firms that participate in it and their head of legal recruiting usually comes. One topic that we just did was on diversity initiatives, and how firms can help themselves become more diverse. We keep telling firms: stop focusing only on that book of business because it is not the only barometer that you need to look at.”
Cullins acknowledges that candidates need a level of portable business to advance a career, but clarifies that diversity is nevertheless a conversation within recruitment circles, and one with which she is actively engaged. Though she works with candidates who are primarily farther along in their careers, she can speak to the demand for diversity within many firms.
Cullins provides one example for how firms can diversify at the partner level:
“Firms can hire a younger, up-and-comer who has all the right kinds of credentials and personality traits – someone who is entrepreneurial – and pull them out of the firm where they are not getting exposure and put them in a new firm and give them maximum exposure and let them grow. This means the firm has to focus on attributes instead of dollar signs.”
A recruiter like Cullins could certainly be an excellent resource for diverse candidates, especially considering her knowledge-base and long-term engagement with diversity.
4. Legal recruiters help minority candidates distinguish themselves
According to the American Psychological Association’s Socioeconomic Status Office, “the relationship between [socioeconomic status], race and ethnicity is intimately intertwined,” which has historically resulted in socioeconomic disadvantages for minority groups. These challenges are of course present when it comes to education, leaving many minorities with far more hurdles to overcome – financially and otherwise – in pursuit of education and careers.
According to Bigler:
“Distinguish yourself from the pack as much as possible. Top students at any law school will always get a closer look by most employers. Unfortunately, not everyone can be at the top of the class, so you should also strive to serve on Law Review, Moot Court, and gain clerkship experience. Work experience before law school may be a differentiator as well. Working in a professional role in legal or another industry oftentimes prepares an individual for the demands of an attorney position.
Employers also look for those that have excelled in other disciplines, such as playing sports or music training at a high level, which demonstrates that you are constantly seeking to improve and achieve. It also makes you an interesting person. Employers want well-rounded attorneys that will work well with a wide range of clients.”
Legal recruiters investigate a candidate’s unique qualities and bring them to the forefront when advocating for them before an employer.
Additionally, “most employers prize candidates who have grit,” says Booher, “So indicating that your achievements were accomplished in spite of hurdles can be very helpful to indicate on your resume.”
With the advocacy skills and market knowledge of a legal recruiter by their sides, and with some recruiters engaged with diversity initiatives, recruiters can help minority candidates stand out.
A legal recruiter works on a candidate’s presentation, finds their unique qualities and coaches them through the recruitment process. This can be especially helpful to minorities, especially if they are coming from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background and are looking to continue to empower themselves through positive career moves.
“We have a responsibility to provide our clients with the most outstanding candidates possible and to respect each candidate as a unique individual,” says Booher. Recruiters want to help candidates find a place where they can thrive.
5. Legal recruiting firms have inside and region-specific knowledge
Michelle Kaplan McAndrew of Chicago-based Atticus Recruiting acknowledges the invaluable location- based knowledge that legal recruiters maintain.
Her dedication to the industry and her knowledge of the Chicago landscape allow her great expertise that she can leverage for Chicago-based candidates or those looking to relocate to Chicago: “I’ve been recruiting for over fifteen years. My former law students from when I taught at the University of Chicago Law School are now partners at law firms and general counsels at Fortune 500 companies. I can help attorneys relocating to Chicago. I know Chicago, and I know the landscape.”
Regional knowledge is one of the great assets that recruiters have, but they have inside, market-knowledge, as well.
Bigler comments on how her great client relationships provide her specific knowledge in helping candidates. She knows what firms are looking for, and when:
“I am talking daily to my clients. I understand what their hiring needs are. I, personally, study market trends and I have a lot of deep client relationships. I take a significant amount of time to prep candidates for the interview, coaching them on how to strengthen their responses to questions. Legal recruiters are also involved with assisting the candidate in negotiating an offer. For diverse candidates that are not informed about the market or experienced at interviewing, a legal recruiter’s job, quite honestly, can be a game-changer for them.”
These strong and ongoing bonds give her a true market edge as she coaches candidates through the recruitment process. This knowledge, in addition to recruiters’ regional expertise, are often the right mix of ingredients leading candidates to positive career changes.
Experiences legal recruiters are a diverse candidate’s career-changing resource
Recruiting professionals can be a truly positive influence on the lives of minority legal candidates. As the industry seeks to diversify, minorities – including women – can benefit from the advocacy skills of a recruiter as they look beyond candidates’ on-paper profiles and seek out what makes them unique and valuable as a potential addition to a law firm or corporation’s team. A legal recruiter’s client relationships coupled with their location-specific knowledge allows them a great advantage in the legal market. With many minority candidates in need of a certain company culture, a place to thrive, and an environment that embraces diversity, they need look no further than the headhunters in their region of interest.