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As if local headhunters weren’t already in hyper mode, leave it to Tower Snow Jr. to stir things up. Snow staged what he considered a simple lunch to introduce his new firm, U.K.-based Clifford Chance, to local recruiters and talk about what he’s after by way of talent. Snow said he just wanted to get a handle on all of the inquiries the firm is getting from headhunters and hungry job applicants. “We’ve been focused on making sure our transition went smoothly,” Snow said, adding that now the partners are trying to respond to the hundreds of resumes they’ve received. His lunch — standing-room-only with more than 20 recruiters — touched off a feeding frenzy among local recruiters who were already combing the ranks of local firms looking for that elusive big game — the rainmaker. “They figured out a very creative way to maximize their reach,” said Martha Africa, a principal at legal recruiter Major, Hagen & Africa. “Now everyone is calling everyone they know, or don’t know, and trying to hornswoggle them.” There’s good reason for the enthusiasm among headhunters. Law firms aren’t hiring lawyers like they were in recent years. Now, as Africa puts it, headhunters are “specializing in needle-in-a-haystack searches.” By way of example, firms may demand a corporate rainmaker with a $10 million book from Fortune 100 clients that are impervious to a downturn. Or a company may want a native Korean speaker who was schooled in the United States but is allowed to practice law in Korea. Then along comes Clifford Chance’s move into the local market. James Burns Jr., managing partner of Clifford Chance’s San Francisco office, said the firm is hoping to add another 40 lawyers before the end of the year to the 60 it has already hired. “We’re not just looking at the book,” Burns said. “We’re also strong believers that if you’re a good lawyer, and a good person, then the business is generated.” Headhunters, however, don’t have carte blanche to recruit candidates for the firm. Clifford Chance has a list of about 40 lawyers who are going to be contacted personally by partners. So recruiters won’t get paid for those candidates. In fact, before setting up a serious meeting with a potential new hire, headhunters have to clear the lawyer’s initials and firm with Clifford Chance honchos. If the identifiers match, the headhunter has to back off. Clifford Chance’s new neighbors in the San Francisco legal market aren’t necessarily thrilled about the recruiting frenzy at the firm. Jorge del Calvo, a Pillsbury Winthrop partner who’s gotten a slew of headhunter calls, finds the recent flurry of activity distasteful. “I thought the British had more class,” he sniffed.

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