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Don’t Wait for Recruiters!

Many unhappy lawyers who reach out to me ask if I offer job placement services. This could be because they’re aware of my years spent working as a legal recruiter.

It could also be because they would much prefer to hand the heavy lifting of making a career change over to a recruiter for leaving law.

I get it! Who wants to do any heavy lifting?!

OK, apparently she does.

Well, I want to let you know that while I do help lawyers determine their ideal career and make career changes, I do not place people in jobs.

In fact, if you’re holding off on exploring your career career change because you’re hoping recruiters for leaving law will come do the heavy lifting, you’re making a mistake.

Below, I’ll explain why. I’ll also share how recruiting (or job placement) works, because there tends to be a lot of confusion on this topic.

How Recruiting Works

Recruiters found in an organization’s HR department are typically tasked with bringing new employees to that organization. Those are not the recruiters I’m writing about today.

This piece is about the recruiters who serve as search consultants (or job placement consultants) and are sometimes referred to as “headhunters”. This would describe the work I did in the legal community.

As a legal recruiter, it was my job to find good employee candidates to join the teams of my clients (who were law firms and corporate legal departments).

On the client side, my interaction was with the recruiter in a law firm or corporation’s HR department and/or a law firm partner or corporation’s GC.

Those clients would describe their organization’s needs to me as well as the type of candidate who would make a good fit on their team. I would combine that data with my own knowledge and research on the organization. Then I would go fishing for the people who both met those descriptions and expressed interest in the opportunity.

If and when an organization hired a candidate I brought to them, I would be paid from the organization’s recruiting budget. After a specified waiting period, they would pay me a percentage of their new employee’s first year salary. This is called a contingent search.

There are also retained searches. For those, the recruiter is paid in advance to conduct an exclusive candidate search on behalf of the client organization.

Either way, when an organization is paying a recruiter, they set the parameters for what type of candidates the recruiter should bring them.

In the legal world, for example, if a candidate didn’t graduate from an elite school and have experience working at an elite law firm, the client was not likely interested. If the client was trying to fill a litigation position but the candidate only had transactional experience, the client was also not likely to be interested.

That meant every minute I spent talking to a lawyer who fell outside of those parameters was a minute I would not get paid for.

I share that so you understand why it is difficult to get the help of a recruiter when you are making a career change.

Getting Help from Recruiters

When you fall within the range of what a recruiter can present to their clients, then you absolutely should pursue working with recruiters. They can save you time and energy, provide you with detailed information about each job opportunity, serve as your advocate throughout the interview process, keep you in the loop with client feedback, and even help negotiate your employment package.

But when you are changing careers, you typically fall outside the range of what a recruiter can bring to their clients. After all, by not coming from the same role or job title that you are trying to break into, you are asking the employer to think outside the box when considering your candidacy.

Why would an employer want to think outside the box if they are paying a recruiter to bring them the “ideal” candidates?

Before your heart sinks and you conclude that I’m saying you’re stuck in your current job forever, please realize that I’m doing no such thing.

What I am saying is that it’s tough to find shortcuts to the career change process. And if you’re waiting on recruiters for leaving law to come be your shortcut, you may be waiting a long time.

Does this mean you can’t change from law to something else? No.

But it does mean you’ll most likely need to put in some work to make a career change.

It’s reasonable to think recruiters will be calling to help with your career change. Especially if you’ve been working in big law, you may be used to getting 10 calls a day from recruiters!

But typically, those recruiters are doing what I used to do. They’re looking to see if you’re interested in new law jobs, whether those jobs are in law firms or in-house corporate legal departments.

While there are exceptions to all rules and you may be able to find a recruiter out there who could connect you to a variety of career change opportunities, recruiters tend to be specialized. There are legal recruiters, tech recruiters, healthcare recruiters, sales & marketing recruiters, executive recruiters…

Each has a depth of clients in the career path they’re focused on. And each is looking for someone who fits a specified profile like I described above.

Finding leaving law recruiters to represent your career change to an unknown career path would require them having a depth of clients in a wide variety of career verticals, as well as clients who are open to thinking outside the box.

That’s a lot of “ifs.”

Doing the Work Yourself

Sure, there’s always a chance you can have some luck calling a recruiter who specializes in whatever field you’re trying to break into. Let’s say it’s compliance. It’s possible they’ll understand and be able to persuade their client as to how you fit the compliance role they’re trying to fill.

But if you’re counting on them to save the day, you’re likely to be disappointed.

Not all career paths are obviously related to law (like compliance). And not all career paths have easily identifiable recruiters for you to turn to. Plus, the further you are from the bullseye on the employer’s “dream candidate” target, the less likely a recruiter can represent you.

Most often, when making a career change, you will have to do the work yourself.

As an example of this in the legal world, during my recruiting years, I saw several big law associates transition from litigation to transactional jobs. Firms did not want to see resumes from me (or pay me) for these people who fell outside of the cookie cutter. Those associates instead made the change on their own by leveraging their relationships and experience.

A nice new lawyer once contacted me after meeting one of my former bosses while shopping. He did not have big law credentials but wanted to be a big law associate.

Firms would never have considered his resume through me. To help him out, I gave him all kinds of networking guidance. He followed that guidance…and got hired as a big law associate!

Leaving Law Recruiters

The same rules apply when making a career change from law practice. You do not need recruiters when making a change. You’re likely to have more success when doing the work on your own.

Once you’re established in the new career path, then recruiters will be more available to you to help advance your career.

When exploring a career change, you of course want to avoid the situation of diving into another career path that doesn’t fit.

That requires taking a big look in the mirror, which you can start doing with the help of The Career Mirror, my free self-assessment questionnaire.

To find the right career fit, you’ll also need to network with people to learn more about the path(s) that interest you. When you do this right, you’ll simultaneously be developing advocates who can help you break into your next path.

When your advocates see the light, they can be helpful in getting others to think outside the box when considering your candidacy.

Essential to making this all work will be your communicating about yourself in a way that makes employers see how you do actually fit what they’re looking for, even when it’s not obvious.

The bottom line is: if you’re unhappy practicing law and thinking you may be happier doing something else, I urge you not to wait on recruiters for leaving law to come save you.

Career changes don’t just happen. They take a lot of soul-searching and work.

Helping you make that entire process easier and more successful is my specialty.

For a step-by-step program to help you figure out what fits you and then pursue opportunities, check out the JD Refugee® class. The class provides guidance by video and includes phone access to me.

To learn more about how the class can help you, don’t miss this video I made to tell you all about it. By watching, you’ll also get actionable tips for making a career change from law practice.

The webinar-style video starts within 15 minutes of any time you land on the sign-up page. You can also select a start time from the dropdown menu on that page. Set aside around 45 minutes to watch.

If videos or classes aren’t your thing and you would like one-on-one help in taking your next steps, I can help you with counseling sessions by phone or Skype.

Feel free to contact me any time you have questions.

Related Posts:

Ask These Questions Before Quitting Law Practice
Tired of Lawyer Stress and Anxiety? Try This!
Careers Lawyers Typically Change To



Thinking of leaving the law? The best first step you can take is a good look in the mirror. START HERE:

it's free!
You’ll also get periodic updates, reminders & access to career guidance programs sent to your inbox. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe via a click at any time.