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Stephanie Abramson’s career is proof that you shouldn’t hang up on headhunters. That’s because she has them to thank for her last two jobs. In 1995 a legal recruiter enticed her from the New York office of Philadelphia’s Morgan, Lewis & Bockius to become general counsel at Madison Avenue’s Young & Rubicam Inc., the advertising and marketing giant. Then, last year, executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. rang. One of its recruiters had noticed that Y&R was being acquired by its London-based rival, WPP Group, and surmised that she might be game for a new job. “When Heidrick & Struggles called me, I initially thought that they were calling on behalf of one of their clients,” says Abramson. As it turned out, though, HSI wanted Abramson to become its own chief legal officer. “I knew I was going to move on because WPP is a U.K. company, and I’m a U.S. securities lawyer,” says Abramson, 56, who took Y&R public in 1998. But, she adds, “I hadn’t begun to look because I knew there would be a lot of work getting the transaction completed.” Ultimately, HSI made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. She asked for, and got, the additional responsibility of corporate development officer. Abramson anticipates spending at least half of her time in that second role, working on mergers and acquisitions. The Chicago-based multinational, which conducts searches for top candidates in 37 countries, plans to acquire other search firms. One of her first targets for expansion is HSI’s Internet recruitment service, LeadersOnline. Before going in-house, Abramson practiced securities and corporate law at Morgan Lewis. During her tenure there, she served several terms as managing partner of its New York office, was a member of its governing board, and chaired the committees that set compensation for the firm’s associates and partners. When Abramson joined Y&R, she added Morgan Lewis to the agency’s roster of outside counsel. At HSI she will continue to rely on her former colleagues — along with New York’s Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton — for employment, M&A, and public reporting work. She’s also looking to add one or two M&A and general corporate lawyers to the three attorneys she now oversees in the United States — with another four abroad. With all the search resources available to her at HSI, she shouldn’t have any problems finding the right candidates.

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