Recruiters at Major, Lindsey & Africa often find themselves drawing useful analogies between the recruitment process and dating. To commemorate Valentine’s Day, MLA offers the following tips from Cupid for any law firm attorney considering a job change in 2013.

 The Dating Game

  • Know Thyself. Be honest with yourself about your “type” and what you want and need in a long-term relationship, so you are able to recognize Mr. or Mrs. Right when he or she comes along. Likewise, avoid wasting valuable time with an otherwise bad match who might look good on paper. Keeping an open mind early on is not a bad thing, but when it’s clear five minutes into a first interview that a relationship is not going to work – for example, a deal-breaking client conflict comes to light – it may be time to move on, regardless of great chemistry or a strong cultural/practice fit. 
  • The Matchmaker. Assess early on whether a legal recruiter can add value to your search for a mate (in this case a new law firm), or whether you should go it alone. Some attorneys are more marketable than others and, as counterintuitive as this may seem, the stronger candidates with a lot of options are the ones who can usually benefit the most from having an agent working on their behalf. Consider working with a reputable, experienced legal recruiter who has strong relationships with firms in your market and understands law firm economics and what factors make you marketable (or not). Because legal recruiters work on commission, a good one will be honest with you about whether he or she is able (and willing) to help you.
    As in dating, beware of online matchmaking services and the limitations they present; less is usually more. A tailored, targeted approach to find that special match is generally more effective. At the same time, don’t be skittish about a blind date. Focusing solely on firms where you have a direct personal contact means a better opportunity may pass you by without you even realizing it.
  • The Setup. If you are a partner with portable business and limits on your time, deciding on a short list of firms that present the best potential fit (based on the metrics of your practice and a number of other factors) is critical. In addition, in the same way you never know where you might meet that special person, an experienced attorney considering a job change will rarely be presented with a neat menu of options from which to choose and certainly will not have all suitors on the same timeline. In this increasingly competitive market, it’s important to do your homework by identifying opportunities that make sense for you and your practice, and pursue those with vigor. In the same vein, you need to be brave enough to take a pass if the right opportunity is not before you, no matter how unhappy you may be in your current situation. Promiscuity (reckless job jumping) can seriously damage your marketability down the line.
  • The First Date – Interview No. 1. To use a litigation analogy, both the prospective employer and candidate should always treat a first interview like a motion to dismiss and not summary judgment. In other words, you need not share every last detail about your background, nor run through an exhaustive checklist of questions. Don’t talk your way out of a second interview. If there are 10 answers to a specific question, offer the best two or three, and be prepared to expand if appropriate. Any questions you ask should show that you are interested, enthusiastic, insightful, thoughtful and smart, and that you have done your homework about the firm and why it would be a good fit.
    Be positive and show enthusiasm without being annoying, and always follow first-date rules (no religion or politics, and definitely no sob stories or bitterness about an ex). It may be necessary to explain why the current relationship isn’t meeting your needs, but you should do so in a matter-of-fact, unemotional way. Nothing will make you unattractive faster than bad-mouthing your current or past firm, even if your interviewer invites you to do so. In addition, be engaging without being a chatty Cathy – there’s no need to share every thought that enters your mind, and a little intrigue at this stage is not a bad thing.
  • The Love Fest. Even if it feels like love at first sight, there is no need to rush the relationship. Sometimes you know it when you see it, but proceed with caution until you know for sure. This means many more dates before anyone uses the “L” word.

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