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This recruiter-sponsored roundtable from The Recorder takes an in-depth look at the issues and trends particular to the field of law firm recruiting in 2004. Comprised of leaders in the field, the panel discusses the new frontiers in candidate recruiting and client relationships. Among the topics discussed are: client relationship issues; new frontiers in client relationship issues, and candidate relationship issues. The recruiters on this panel paid a fee to participate in the discussion. Chris Braun: Welcome. Thank you for participating in The Recorder‘s second recruiter roundtable. Congratulations on becoming a part of what we hope is a tradition at The Recorder. My name is Chris Braun, and I’m the publisher of The Recorder. Our panelists include Chuck Fanning of Major Hagen & Africa; Stephen Van Liere of Cushing Bicksler Van Liere; David Lacob of Pacific Search International; Stacy Miller of Miller, Sabino & Lee; and Avis Caravello of Avis Caravello Attorney Search Consultants. This morning we’re going to discuss three broad areas: client relationship issues; new frontiers in client relationship issues, or “the only constant is change;” and candidate relationship issues. Let’s start with an overview of the ways you engage with clients, the merits of different types of engagements, and how the relationship might vary depending on the type of client and the type of search. Chuck? Chuck Fanning: The two basic models that we use are pretty standard in the industry. There is the classic contingent search model, where a law firm or corporate client can use multiple recruiting firms, and the fee is based upon coming up with the right candidate; hence the contingent nature of the relationship. The second model is the exclusive retained model, whereby a company or law firm engages us on an exclusive basis. In that case there’s often a retainer paid up front. The probability of making a placement is significantly higher because you’re the only recruiting firm working on it. The reality is that it’s a much more committed relationship between the client and the recruiting firm. There is a lot more work done on the recruiting firm’s side, a lot more accountability, and a higher probability of success. Chris Braun: Steve, tell us a little bit about your sense of the merits of each model, and the pluses and minuses for the client and the recruiter. Stephen Van Liere: It’s my experience that the law firms almost never engage a retained search for associate-level placements. There are of course a number of recruiters out there. The profile of the candidates is fairly easily disseminated, and the work of finding those folks is not quite as complicated as it is for partner placements. Firms are much more likely to do a retained search for a partner-level position, though sometimes they don’t. There are some firms that have had good success with retained searches and understand the value, as Chuck pointed out, of a deeper, more committed relationship and better exchange of information, which allows a recruiter to do a more comprehensive job of completing the search. Then there are other firms that haven’t had that kind of experience, or don’t have any experience. And so even at the partner level, they’ll still engage firms on a contingent basis. My feeling is that the more information you can share between recruiter and client, the higher the degree of success. Retained searches tend to allow for more exchange of information. Chris Braun: David, Steve talked a little bit about the difference between levels within the organization. Do you have any experience between corporate placements and law firm placements as it relates to the relationship between the recruiter and the client? David Lacob: It really varies client to client. A lot of it has to do with whether we’re handling a retained search or a contingency search. We are starting to see some clients look for a sort of middle ground on retained searches. There’s become an issue in the retained searches versus the contingency searches, where people are finding that sometimes recruiting firms have too many retained searches. This is an issue we’re constantly trying to balance, because we do a lot of partner work. It has become a problem where search firms are overlapping on a conceptual basis. We’re seeing a trend whereby some firms want to pick the search firm out and not necessarily do a full retained search, but more of an exclusive search, where the firm will decide on two search firms to work with on a particular search on the partner level. There is a point where if you have so many retainers that are so similar, you can’t really perform it as a fully retained search. Chris Braun: Stacy, is that consistent with your experience? Stacy Miller: I think so. On the corporate side, I’m seeing an increase in retained searches and seeing a lot more work in that area. I think that a lot of corporations are realizing that it behooves them to bring their legal work in-house. In so doing, they’ve put out the job requirements for a very specific opening, and typically companies like to fill those openings as soon as possible. So I’m seeing an increase in retained searches for companies, too. But on the law firm side, you sometimes get into conflicts when you’ve got certain law firms looking for similar types of candidates, and perhaps you’re working with each one. If there is a conflict or perceived conflict, the approach I’ve taken is the first-in-time rule. Whoever approached me first and whoever retained me first is the person or firm I do the retained search for. Chris Braun: Avis, is first-in-time a concept you’re familiar with? Avis Caravello: With the decrease in the associate search market over the past two years, there has been a great increase in my practice in requests for retained searches for partners. Because I do all of the searches on the partner level myself, I have to be really careful. Retained searches with partners can be a slippery slope. Particularly here in the Bay Area, where it’s a small community, if you don’t complete your retainers, you’re not likely to get others. There are only a finite number of firms. So for me, it’s an evaluation process, a strategic evaluation, “Is this search really doable?” Some clients know that it may be quite a long shot, but they need to invest in the search, they need to see it through, and then they need to take those results, favorable or not, and incorporate it into their growth plan for their practice group. On my end, I always want to complete the retainers, but very often I turn them down if I have more than two or three a quarter, because I don’t want to run into conflict situations. Sometimes, many firms are looking for the same thing. And some firms just aren’t competitive for some of the searches that they request. Chris Braun: Avis, you mentioned looking at the strategic nature of the relationship when you go into a search. What kinds of things should a client be looking for when negotiating the terms of the relationship with the recruiter? You mentioned conflict issues. What other kinds of things might a client be looking for? Avis Caravello: Conflicts are a big issue for many search firms. We have firms that we recruit out of and firms that we recruit for. A client should know what your conflict list is. I’m always asked for that. If they have their eye on one or two particular firms they think might be fertile ground, that’s important information for the firm to know up front — whether or not you will be able to go into those firms. So a conflict check is important, and the list can change over time. It really depends on the firm as to whether you may be conflicted out of a firm contractually because you have a retainer with them. You may be conflicted out of a firm from a relationship perspective. In many instances, I’m not always on retainer with a certain firm, but I’ve worked with them for so many years that I would never recruit out of them. So that’s a very important baseline question to ask, particularly in the partner searches. Chris Braun: Stacy, what are other kinds of baseline issues a client firm should be looking at in terms of the initial relationship between the recruiter and the client, regardless of whether it results in an engagement? What are the core elements a client should be looking for? Stacy Miller: From the client perspective, you want to look at the recruiter’s track record, and you want to talk to former or current clients, if that information can be divulged. A lot of times your retained searches are highly confidential. This is all assuming that it’s inclusive of what Avis was talking about in terms of getting past all those conflict issues. You provide them with a list of past candidates and where they were previously working so they can understand who you’ve placed, where they’ve come from and the caliber of candidates that you’re obtaining for your clients. Recruiters need to sit down with their clients, preferably multiple times, to really get a sense of their practices, the firm as a whole and their office as a whole. There can be very different dynamics within practice groups, within offices, and within different firms. You need to look at that culture. Then, fine tune what exactly they’re looking for, because often our services are assisting clients in assessing their practice. What is going on here with the caseload or what is going on here with the deal flow? Are you really looking for a fifth- to seventh-year? This is an associate that is going to be up for partner in a couple years. Are you looking for a junior partner, or can you utilize somebody’s skill set in a different way? It’s a pretty organic process and it varies case by case and client by client, but I think they need to do a background check on you and find out what you’re about as a recruiter and who you’ve worked with, and then provide you with as much information as possible about them. Chris Braun: David, Stacy talked about ensuring that the client has really communicated what their need is. Do you find that that’s an issue in your practice? That seems like a yellow flag. Are there other yellow flags that the client or the recruiter might be looking for to indicate whether there’s a match or some expectation correction that should happen early in the engagement? David Lacob: It’s a case-by-case issue. Clearly, you have to sit down with your clients and decide what some of their issues are. By and large, most of these things are talked through in advance with our clients. We make sure that everybody’s on the same page. The cutting-edge issue for us is making sure we don’t have too many retainers. It is a huge issue, because if we do, we could be in a situation where we’re conflicting ourselves out. For us, that’s been the overriding issue, since we tend to do a lot of partner work. Stephen Van Liere: Clients have their “want list,” and then they have their “need list.” What they want is not always what they can get. During the search process, one of the real value-adds that a recruiter can bring to the firm is helping the firm understand what’s realistic in terms of recruiting partner-level candidates. Oftentimes, it will show that the firm hasn’t taken the internal look it needs to evaluate the groups that they’re trying to expand, the structure of the groups, maybe the leadership of the groups. As Avis said, it’s a pretty small community. Folks know a lot about other practices in this community, particularly in their practice area. A firm needs to take another look at its own structure and groups. Chuck Fanning: Expectation management is a huge issue. The best recruiters take a long-term perspective. They understand that it doesn’t do you any good to be a yes-person to a client and then fail on a search, even if it means you end up banking the retainer. Firms, particularly where you haven’t managed expectations upfront, are unhappy for a very long time after you’ve taken a retainer and not earned it, particularly if you weren’t upfront with them about the probabilities on a search. By definition, retained searches are difficult searches. If they weren’t difficult searches, they wouldn’t be seeking to retain you. If you’re lucky enough to get a retained search where you put the probability at 100 percent, grab it and run. That is the exception. Usually you’re being asked to take on a retained search because a client has not had success using the contingent model. Manage those expectations. Have a conversation with the client upfront on a retained search. Tell them, “We could be sitting here three months or six months from now, and I could have that retainer in my bank account. You’ll have gone through the process, and hopefully you’ll have gotten a lot of information about these candidates that we’re going to target for you, and how the market’s responding to you. But you may not have that partner on board, and I’m going to have the retainer. I’ll have done a lot of work for that, but are you okay with that?” I’ve learned this lesson — you have to have that conversation. It would be even better to record it. But again, clients are fooling themselves if they think that there’s 100 percent probability on completing the search. It’s incumbent on us to manage those expectations and then be accountable. If there’s a yellow flag for me to watch for, it would be what level of accountability is the recruiting firm you’re hiring willing to provide? For example, on retained searches, we provide weekly status reports on the progress that we’ve made against the search expectations. I can tell you that the day before those status reports are due, I live in absolute fear, because you have to show on a weekly basis some progress against expectations. That’s a terrible thing for me from a sleep perspective, but a wonderful thing for a client to have somebody really worrying about a search at that level. That, to me, is an absolutely essential part of a retained search. It is a big distinction with contingent search, which almost by definition is extremely non-accountable. Law firms hire 10 recruiters, and whichever recruiter calls them, terrific, but they’re not waiting by the phone for a call from any one recruiter. Chris Braun: David, what should a client use to evaluate the experience at the end of the process? What are the common characteristics of a successful search? David Lacob: Chuck’s made a very good point about managing expectations. I think that’s quite accurate and quite applicable. As to your question, at the end of the day I think what people are looking for is results. That’s what we’re getting paid for. But they have to be results that last. It can’t be just filling the slot. It’s got to be the right candidate. Whether it is an in-house situation or a law firm, it’s got to be the right fit. If you’ve been in the business long enough, you see a recycling of candidates from one institution to another. Part of that is due to the fact that there’s more movement today than there was in the mid-1980s. But at the end of the day, it is about results that last. If you place somebody at a firm and six months or eight months or even 10 months later, it didn’t work out, then you really haven’t gotten the job done. Recruiters have to make sure that they’re getting the right person, the right fit, and putting together a deal that’s going to last. But I think firms also have to take some active role in this. They have to be willing to realize that if this is not the right person, not the right fit, they ought not to do the deal and should not make the hire. Avis Caravello: You want to find the right person and complete the search, but there are also sometimes intangibles that come out of that. Whether you complete the search or not, if the search is handled in a really good way, there’s a whole marketing component for the law firm that really adds value. When I do a retained partner search, it’s almost like planting seeds in a field. You call on many different people, and you present the best things about this firm or this corporation to potential candidates. They may not be interested today, but it’s something that may stay with them. There have been people that I’ve called, and two years later wound up at the firm. You set the tone and you get them to start to think about it. It’s great PR for the firm, because you’re calling key people in the legal community and telling them why your client’s platform is a better platform for their practice and their career development. There’s a lot of value in that, in addition to ultimately finding the right person. Chuck Fanning: I think that’s particularly true when you’re dealing with firms that are trying to create or change perceptions in the marketplace. Here in the Bay Area, we’ve had a tremendous influx of out-of-town firms in the last several years that folks just don’t know anything about. Everybody has some impression of Morrison & Foerster, and it’s going to be pretty hard to change that impression because they feel comfortable that they have good, quality information. But a Winston & Strawn or a Jones Day, they haven’t been in this marketplace, and are much more in need of that type of outreach and PR. They have a good story to tell, but no one’s telling it, and that’s part of our role, particularly in the retained search. Chris Braun: Avis, you said a search is an extension of the firm’s marketing and PR. Let’s talk about some of the ways that recruiters have expanded their role beyond a straight engagement to fill a position. Stephen, let’s start with you. Stephen Van Liere: I make a distinction between these collateral benefits that firms get in a retained search versus some of the recruiters who have actually become consultants in connection with law firm mergers or practice management, or on the candidate side, assisting candidates with a job search by helping with their resumes. My firm’s practice is still focused on recruiting. We haven’t done much consulting work. But I see big national consulting companies that are moving toward the recruiter work, and some recruiters moving toward consulting work. Stacy Miller: In forming retained search relationships with clients, you end up consulting. It’s the collateral benefit of forging a strong and lasting relationship with your client. We are phoning and targeting and researching people and practices on a daily basis. The Bay Area legal community is fairly small, so we do have a lot of information on specific groups and firms. We are a wealth of information, and a great source for people to have as a touchstone to what’s going on in the industry. That’s very beneficial to clients. I moved quite a large group, and a lot of that process was just fine tuning, culling information and summarizing and providing the documentation and the narrative to both the client and the group of candidates. They didn’t need marketing materials; they needed very specific information, and in those situations, whether it’s a large group or single partners, you need somebody who knows how to read a practice spreadsheet and knows how to cull out profitability and overstaffing or understaffing cases. There’s more variety in what I do, but it’s all with the goal of recruiting. I don’t go out and tell my clients that I provide consulting services and not recruiting services. David Lacob: To be candid, I think the whole notion of recruiters changing their business models is a little over-hyped by some search firms. Reasonable people can disagree on this, obviously. For two decades now, probably 60 percent of our base has been in the partner and larger groups. We spend the majority of our time finding the right practice group or the right partner with very sizeable books of business. With a very large group of attorneys, traditionally what most law firms have been doing is bringing in consultants to give them an evaluation. I think that’s probably going to continue. There are some areas where the business model of recruiters in certain specialized areas is changing as you get into consulting services. In these nontraditional recruiting areas, they’re acting more as consulting services. But I think in traditional recruiting, there still is that bifurcation between the people who are doing the recruiting — finding the people, putting together the right fit, the right match and all of that — and consulting firms, which do a lot of mathematical analysis. Do they really bring that much benefit to a law firm? There’s some debate about that. Of course, the consulting people would say they do. I talk to a lot of firm management people. Some have chosen to use consultants and have found it to be helpful. Others have decided to do it on their own. Avis Caravello: In a retained search for a partner, you do consult, to a degree, with clients. When we think of traditional consultants, that’s more in the financial services realm as they relate to the firms and structuring rates of overall growth. But the feasibility of growing a practice group, adding a practice group or acquiring a smaller firm is the type of market information that the consultants may not be able to provide. Recruiters do have that information. We are in the trenches; we are on the front lines. We can make an assessment that we don’t think you’re going to be able to get that $9 million corporate partner, but you might want to consider going another route and maybe looking at some younger lieutenants, or what have you. We know what the market can bear. We know what their competition is looking for, and the likelihood that they would succeed in any given market for a particular search. It is incumbent on us when we do talk with clients about retainers to consult and give them that information, and let them know whether the search that they want to retain us for is in fact feasible. Chuck Fanning: Depending on the assignment, the level of consulting provided is A), more important to the client, and B), just a bigger part of the equation. I think of the classic example of the law firm that has decided to look at a Bay Area office. We have had situations where firms have come to us, maybe firms that we’ve worked with in New York or Chicago, and said, “We’ve made the tentative decision or the decision to open in San Francisco, but we don’t profess to know the market like you or your recruiting compatriots in the market do. Let’s put you on a retainer and let us tell you why we want to open in the market and our strategy, and hopefully you’ll be in a position to validate that. If you are in a position to validate it, then you can help us execute on that strategy.” The economics for us are really driven by being able to place lawyers. We don’t take on an assignment where the total return economically to us is going to be just the retainer. We need to believe that there’s a high probability of actually making placements. I think that’s where the line is drawn between the folks in this room and the Hildebrandts of the world. David Lacob: I don’t have any disagreement with that. I just think that a lot of the consulting services have changed as the market has changed. A lot of search firms have been giving that kind of advice for many years. Stacy Miller: Consulting is inherent in the process. If you’re doing a thorough job for your clients, you will end up doing work outside the strict recruiting research on candidates, approaching those candidates, getting a resume together, etc. The Hildebrandts of the world are more qualified to do full-fledged consulting or due diligence if you are looking at a merger or a large group coming on board. Frankly, I would never want one of my clients to close a merger or a deal with a group of partners without doing that. That would be rather foolhardy on their part. David Lacob: That’s my point. To make the argument that search firms are now cornering the consulting market is not accurate. Business has gone to consulting firms over the years and will continue to go to them. Chris Braun: One of the other changes that I’ve seen over the last several years is the increasing prevalence of non-lawyer managers in law firms. Any comments or thoughts about how that has affected your jobs and your relationships with your clients? Are you asked to recruit COOs [chief operating officers]? Chuck Fanning: We get asked about them and we refer them to other people. We’re in agreement that we think we’re really good at hiring lawyers, and we probably challenge some of the executive search firms that are coming into our space in terms of their ability to do what we do. Similarly, we acknowledge that they’re probably better in the COO space. They should just leave the GC [general counsel] stuff to us. With respect to the law firm trend of hiring COOs, I consider that an unequivocally positive development. COOs are driven by accomplishing strategic goals. They’re not trying to manage a full-time law practice. You talk to law firms that have said an important strategic goal for us is to add — pick a practice area — an IP litigation practice. It’s been an important strategic goal of ours for five years. And you say, “Well, what have you done to accomplish that goal?” They more or less tell you that they’ve put word out to the contingent recruiting community that this is a goal of theirs. They are first and foremost a lawyer, and this management thing takes a back seat. These COOs have strategic goals for the year, and their bonuses depend upon accomplishing them. They’re not going to leave that to chance. I think that’s good for those of us in this room who hope to be able to participate in execution of those strategic goals. Avis Caravello: Even when the firm doesn’t have a CEO, the fact that that model now exists and is working well means the chairs of the law firms are starting to model their own behavior after CEOs. And that’s fantastic. In recruiting, if a firm is really serious about getting a search done, they should give me access to the chair. If the chair is involved and I have his direct line, if he’s there to get on a plane and fly out here when we need him or her to meet candidates, we can put a deal together. Firms are recognizing it’s very competitive now. They have to move quickly, they have to be more efficient and lean and have a smaller group controlling this lateral hiring process. They’re starting to think more like corporations, and as a result it helps us tremendously to get deals done. Stephen Van Liere: The more professionalized the management of a law firm becomes, the more professionalized and efficient the recruiting process becomes. You can see the firms that have put resources toward that and how much more effective their recruiting processes are. One thing I would make a distinction about is it’s not necessarily non-lawyers, it’s simply non-practicing lawyers. Many times a lawyer who has practiced but is now managing is the absolute best person to professionalize the management because they understand the business so well. Chris Braun: Moving on to candidate relationships, talk a little bit about what advice you would give to candidates in considering and selecting a recruiting firm. David Lacob: There are a lot of issues that need to be looked at. First and foremost, they need to look at integrity. They need to look at the experience of the search firm, and in particular within the search firm, the person that they’re actually dealing with. You’ve got to feel comfortable. There’s got to be a fit between the candidate and the recruiter. Most people are members of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants, but there’s always been the issue of how much enforcement power the national association has. I think candidates really need to do their homework and find people who have been doing this for a long time and really have the experience and the integrity. We’ve always had the motto that the integrity and the expertise and experience that you bring counts. The search firm should be accountable and should have the same standards as the people they place. So again, I think expertise, experience and integrity are three critical issues. There are a lot of other issues that go into it, but I think they’re clearly the three starting points. Chris Braun: Stacy, what else should a candidate be considering? What should they be prepared to do or bring to the table? Stacy Miller: Most of the partners that I work with ask me for a list of references. It’s the same that we do with candidates. As a recruiter, you’re going to be representing this partner or this practice to a law firm, and they need to make sure that they’re represented in an accurate light. So I think you need to do your due diligence, meet with people, really get to know them. I’ve had partners ask me for a list of references — to give them the list of the last five candidates I’ve placed, if the candidates agree to allow their name and number to be released. It allows them to garner a lot of information about you and really learn about your work experience. They need to look at your background, look at your past work history, how long you’ve been around and who you’ve been working with. Chuck Fanning: I work exclusively at the partner level, and I think the question may actually be different if you’re a candidate looking for an in-house or an associate position. So I’m going to answer the question from the perspective of a partner candidate who’s looking to move his or her practice. They need to ask themselves at least three questions. First, and I think foremost, is the person in a position to advise me, in a meaningful way, about the full range of opportunities in the marketplace? That’s a pretty big task in the larger metropolitan areas, and in particular in large metropolitan areas where there’s a lot of firms coming in that have not previously been there. It’s a critical question. If you ask a partner candidate why they’re going to engage a recruiter, hopefully one of the answers is that they want to make sure they make a fully informed decision. The second question is, and this goes more to the integrity issue, am I comfortable as a partner candidate being associated with this recruiter? Let’s face it, the recruiting industry in general does not have a stellar reputation, present company excluded, of course. There is no question in my mind that the partner candidate becomes, to some extent, associated with the person who’s representing them. Just as you don’t see the best athletes hiring obscure sports agents to represent them, the best partner talent should get the best recruiter to represent him or her, because they expect that that representation is going to benefit them because the law firms are going to receive that candidate with the credibility of the recruiter in mind. A third question is one that is important and dramatically overlooked. Late in the game, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of compensation discussions, when it comes to a serious consideration of fiduciary duty issues with respect to trying to transition clients to a new firm, when it comes to pulling the trigger on a move for a partner who has been with a firm for 20 or 30 years, this is an incredibly emotionally charged event. The recruiter is in a position to play a consigliere role. This partner would normally look to their partners at their current law firm for this. Those are their closest professional contacts, yet by definition, because of fiduciary duty concerns, they can’t be talking to those people when they’re facing this ultimate professional decision. Is the person who’s representing you in a position to provide you some advice or resources on the fiduciary duty issue? Are they in a position to advise you on compensation questions at that most critical stage? Can they be a valuable confidante and a consigliere? There are some tangible aspects and some intangible aspects, but I think it’s really critical. Partners should interview a recruiter and ask themselves these questions before choosing someone as their representative in the marketplace. Avis Caravello: I agree with everything that Chuck said. Having the confidence in the recruiter throughout the process is really critical; it’s part of the chemistry that you have. We have to always keep in mind that this is the person’s entire life that they’re about to risk. It’s almost like starting a business. We get them to the right platform so they can take off and be fast out of the box and have a comfortable transition. They need to know that they have someone who has done this before. There are lots of questions that come up. Most of the time, they haven’t moved a practice. Usually you move a big practice once, maybe twice in a career, and there are a lot of things that to us probably seem like common sense, but they’ve never encountered before. Being there as a sounding board is very important. Chris Braun: Everybody seems to be in agreement. Any final thoughts on candidate relationships? David Lacob: I really think it comes down to the integrity of the recruiter they’re choosing, the experience and the track record. Those are the three critical issues. We do a lot of partner placements, and one of the big issues on the candidate side is to think through the issue of conflicts. That has certainly become more of an issue. Sometimes people start out with a particular sense of firms or a particular vision in mind, and realize they may be conflicted out. So you have to help people think out of the box in terms of what their perceptions are of certain firms, firms they may not have previously considered. The other issue is compensation. Somebody ran an ad at some point saying, “Compensation expertise,” sort of implying that that was sort of a criterion by which a partner should make a decision as to where they go. I’m not going to deny in any way that’s not an issue — clearly it is an issue — but at the end of the day making a move just for a few thousand dollars more is not the right thing to do. I think the hardest thing for recruiters to do is to say to a candidate, “Hey, this is not the right move.” It’s much easier to say, “This is a great move, go ahead and do it.” I think you have to be really candid with people and tell them, “Maybe this is not the right move. The first offer’s not necessarily the best, and the grass is not always greener.” You have to be prepared to give people very candid advice. And sometimes that’s advice that people don’t want to give. Chuck Fanning: Experience in the area in which you’re hiring someone to represent you is important. Anybody that suggests that you should hire them solely based upon volume of the deals that they’ve done presents a huge yellow flag. If you talk to the managing partners of these law firms, they will tell you, “Yes, we paid so and so a fee on that deal, but if the candidate knew the quality of representation they got … ” You hear horror stories. I am reminded of a time when there were firms that were processing huge volumes, particularly at the associate level, and resumes were being faxed around with handwritten notes on the top. I think that some of that’s happening now at the partner level. If you’re a partner candidate, you need to make absolutely sure that that’s not the person representing you. Experience is important, but volume alone is absolutely not the most critical element. Stacy Miller: To touch on what you’re saying, Chuck, I always let my partner candidates know that they absolutely reserve the right to review anything I’m submitting on their behalf to a firm or to a potential employer. Even though a lot of the time they don’t take me up on that opportunity, I always send them the materials and say please, either via voicemail or email, get back to me in some shape or form to okay that this goes to these three people, no matter what step they are in the process. Just last week I had some very, very sensitive documents that I hand-delivered to a client on behalf of a candidate because they absolutely couldn’t be seen by anybody else in the office. Chuck Fanning: I talk to friends who are partners in law firms, and our conversation will go something like this: They’ll call me and I’ll say, “What’s going on out there? I’m getting all these calls from recruiters. There’s just this flurry of activity.” And I think the natural conclusion that the lawyer reaches is that, “Wow, there must be a lot of interest in what I bring to the table.” But in probably many of those calls, the recruiter doesn’t really have much of an idea of what that lawyer’s practice is like, what volume of business he or she might bring, or who their clients are. They haven’t really done any of the investigation and due diligence and work that you have to do to determine whether there are opportunities for this lawyer out there. A yellow or even red flag is the recruiter who calls and really knows nothing about you and professes to have the perfect position. Chris Braun: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stephen Van Liere: Exactly. Chris Braun: I’d like to close with a little prognostication. Tell me what you think we’re likely to see in the next year or so in terms of changes in the profession. Avis Caravello: I’m looking in my crystal ball and I see three trends that will definitely continue. There’ll be further consolidation of the Am Law 30. The big firms are continuing their quest to be global players, coming into regional markets and acquiring smaller firms, and gaining more critical mass by continuing to expand overseas. In doing so, they are gaining more of a foothold in large institutional client bases and thereby continuing to raise their rates, which will result in hopefully more work for associates and more associate hiring. The other result of that will be that as rates rise in certain practices that are more regionalized, we’re going to see more opportunities for the smaller and the mid-sized firms to pick up those practice groups that are struggling to keep the rate structure in the larger global firms. That’s really good news for the smaller and mid-sized firms. The last thing I see, which also goes to long-term employment opportunities, is in two or three years there’s going to be a massive shortage of mid-level corporate associates, mid-level to senior corporate associates, the likes we’ve yet to see. They have all been decimated from this market in the past two or three years. As things pick up, firms are going to be looking for those people. So three or four years from now, we will have that big shortage and we’ll be running around trying to find those folks. Stacy Miller: I’m seeing the continuation of trends. Law firms are reflecting their clients and their business models, whether that be having business people running and managing the firm, hiring a CEO or COO or what have you. I’m seeing a lot of firms streamline processes and making partners and people accountable for their practices and profitability. That’s good news for us as recruiters. In the last couple years I’ve seen a great increase in retained searches, which goes hand-in-hand with very focused efforts on recruiting. On the in-house side, a lot of my corporate clients are realizing that it is time to bring legal work in-house. It’s much more cost-effective for them to hire somebody and pay the salary and bring them on as an employee of the company, as opposed to paying outside law firm fees. So I’m seeing in-house legal departments grow. And that’s in the very traditional sectors as well as in the new economy-type businesses. So I think it’ll be an interesting couple of years. Hopefully with the hiring of all the junior corporate associates that’s going on right now, maybe all those people will grow up and become mid- to senior-level associates so that people aren’t left in a glitch. David Lacob: I see five or six big trends. We will continue to see a dominance and further consolidation of the Am Law 100 and 200. The national firms that have the resources and scale are still in the sweet spot. At the same time, a couple caveats apply. I don’t think, as has been written in some press articles, that the Magic Circle firms will necessarily dominate the U.S. landscape. They may make inroads, but I don’t think they will dominate. They will still have a great role to play in world markets. Another thing we’re seeing is that the nature of how law firms get business from their in-house clients is changing. We’ve recently seen more fee-based bid work. I think that’s a trend that’s going to continue. Some people call it an auction model. I don’t know if I’d go quite that far. Conflicts for large law firms have become a massive problem. I don’t want to say that there’ll be a revenge of the boutique, but I do concur that we will see more boutiques, however they will be a different kind of boutique than we’ve seen in the past. One example of that is the mid-sized powerhouse litigation firm. There are a number of examples that I could cite in that area. I think that’s a trend we’re going to see, sort of a muscular, mid-sized litigation boutique. Another trend that’s certainly going to continue is international work, particularly in Asia. The demand for people who have engineering and hard science backgrounds will continue, and the demand for language, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Japanese. There’s massive competition for people with that kind of background and skill set, and that’s going to continue. Some advice for very young lawyers or people planning to go to law school is think engineering, think science, think languages, and think China. Certainly I think these are areas where we’re going to see a lot of excitement in the coming years. Stephen Van Liere: I agree that this trend towards the largest firms focusing on premium billing will continue. It’s almost reshaping the notion of what a full-service law firm is. Those are the firms that built broad practices to handle all the legal needs of their clients, but that sort of runs right in the face of trying to focus only on premium billing-rate practices. As Avis pointed out, it’s going to create opportunities for firms that have a rate structure that’s one notch below a premium billing rate structure. They will be able to pick up practices like employment. real estate. wealth management and other kinds of practices that still draw a nice rate, but maybe not the premium rate. I see a continuation of this trend toward creating more levels of involvement and/or ownership in a law firm, which began as a way for some firms to de-equitize partners in order to increase their per-partner profit numbers to make them more attractive merger candidates. A collateral effect and I think a benefit is firms are starting to look a little more creatively at what a partner in a law firm is, what an associate is, what a counsel might be. You see a plethora of titles now, whereas before it was simply either equity partner or associate. I hope that trend continues, because it allows for more flexibility in work arrangements for people who want to be lawyers but don’t necessarily want to be an associate on an equity-partner track. That’s important given the demographics of law students and lawyers who are trying to balance family and everything else. The third element I’m curious about, I don’t know if it will actually develop into a trend, is related to the in-house side. There was an excellent article in your publication about what was called the Dupont Method, this idea that corporations will start to outsource the more commoditized aspects of legal work. I’m very curious whether that will take hold, because it would have a significant effect on recruiting and hiring practices. It would have a significant effect on my business, because we also do contract attorneys and legal professionals. So it’ll be interesting to see whether that is just sort of the latest “in vogue” management technique or whether it’ll actually happen. Chuck Fanning: On the staffing side, I think we’re in a pretty interesting spot right now. We’ve gone through a period where associate hiring, particularly through recruiting firms, was almost zero for a period of time. Now it appears to be picking up quite dramatically. I predict that we will see the continuation and extension of a trend that has already started in the partner recruitment area: Law firms being much more strategic about how they approach lateral hiring and the use of recruitment firms. When it comes to making important hires, whether it be in the partner or the associate realm, I just don’t think the old model of tossing those needs out to a bunch of search firms on a contingent basis has worked very well. Corporations long ago discovered the benefits of partnering more closely with a recruitment firm to execute on important hires; in fact, contingent search is the exception rather than the rule with respect to our firm’s in-house search practice. In the last couple of years, law firms have increasingly dipped their toe into the water of retained search at the partner level. I think we’ll continue to see that, and also the extension of more exclusive or at least semi-exclusive relationships in the associate hiring realm.

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