Q. I have an important upcoming meeting with a senior executive in a corporation. I would like to be as prepared as possible. What are some sources I can use to do research on her?
A. The Internet has been a boon to doing this type of examination. While any teenager would quickly tell you to “Google” the person (which you should, by the way), you can go much further.
Here are just a few places to look. First, tried and true legal research tools can help in this realm. LexisNexis and Westlaw can be used to look for articles in which the executive has been named. Second, if this is a key executive in a publicly traded company, you can search her employer’s filings at the free Edgar site, www.sec.gov/edgar. Edgar Online, www.edgar-online.com, and Hoovers, www.hoovers.com, which have advanced search capabilities that focus on individuals (for a fee), can also be used in this regard.
The Internet does offer a plethora of “people finders,” some of which are free. Zoom, www.zoominfo.com, is an example of a free site that tracks professionals. There are also a slew of publishers that have online databases that can be used, such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, daily newspapers and quite a few business journals across the country.
Finally, don’t forget one of your most valuable tools – namely, your network of contacts. The “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” theory does apply here, as you very likely have contacts that know the executive or can link you to someone who does. Peruse your alumni and business networks, personal and professional contacts, and other lists of persons you know, as that exercise just may connect some neural pathways that you may have otherwise ignored.
The above list is just a partial list, but it should hopefully give you a good start.
Q. ‘Tis the season, it seems, for recruiter phone calls to partners like me. Why so many calls, and why should I take the time out of my busy schedule to talk?
A. Even though the calls may seem intrusive, the silence will be deafening – and of concern – if they end someday. In any event, as to timing, most firms operate on a calendar year basis. As such, most partners in those firms are loathe to leave before they receive the portion of their compensation that was held back during the year and their distributions, especially if the firm had a good year. Those payouts normally occur early in the first quarter.
Since lateral partner recruitment can often be a lengthy process, the fall and winter are key times to start a dialogue – hence, a key reason your phone may be ringing. As to whether you should take the time to speak to someone, you should know within the first minute of the call. If the recruiter is stumbling through the call, has a style that turns you off or is not professional, it makes little sense to go further.
If that hurdle has been surmounted, there are several areas you should probe:
Knowledge of you and your practice area. Has the recruiter “done homework” on you, beyond what is listed on your firm’s Web site or on Martindale? Does this person know who the key players and firms are in your specific practice area? If not, the recruiter is likely “dialing for dollars” and adds no value to you.
Willingness to disclose the firm on whose behalf he or she is calling. It is a plus if the recruiter is calling on behalf of a firm, as, if this is true, it should provide you with some important information that could make the call worthwhile, since it will allow you to better assess the potential opportunity. If you are sincere in being open to exploring a potential move, the recruiter should reciprocate. You can’t be playing guessing games, as there is way too much downside in that regard.
Familiarity with the market. Whether or not the recruiter is calling on behalf of a specific client, he or she should be able to discuss what departments in other firms are like, should have a good handle on key matters (such as projected compensation), and should be able to educate you, at least in part.
Experience to help you weigh pros and cons. Quite a few factors come into play in considering a potential move, some of which favor staying and others that support leaving. You need someone who can intelligently and fairly help you work through these factors. The best recruiters do not have a short-term focus and can advise you not to move now, even though that may be against their economic interest.
Ability to act with discretion. It is vital that the recruiter exercises caution, is discreet, and does everything in his or her power to protect your confidentiality. A breach in that respect could have significant negative repercussions.
Willingness to provide references. You have worked very hard to make partner and build your practice. You should make sure that if someone else is now going to play a big role in your future, he or she should have experience doing so and is an expert. The recruiter should be able to provide a reference of partners he or she has placed who can help to assure you that you will be in good hands.
If a caller passes muster, it makes sense to talk, even if you are happy right now and want to stay put. Things have a way of changing, sometimes in ways you cannot envision, and it can help to have someone in your corner when and if that day comes.
Q. I have had a number of positions and have been practicing now for quite a few years. I think it is disadvantageous for me to list all of those jobs and my years of graduation on my resume. What do you think the merits are of omitting that information?
A. This is a tough question and one in which there are polarized schools of thought. It is apparent that what is underlying your question is the concern that your experience – and perhaps your age – could hurt you in a job search. The anti-discrimination laws are well-settled and are designed to protect you in this realm. You thus do not have to list this information. If a prospective employer were to focus on your age, for example, in excluding you, it surely would be opening itself up to liability.
In light of these factors, some consultants recommend that you leave dates and vestiges of jobs from yesteryear off your resume. I do not concur with that view. The reality is that most employers who see omissions, especially on critical points like these, will feel that you have something to hide. It reeks of deception, places you on the defensive and can quickly derail your candidacy. This is only exacerbated by the reality that the Internet sources referenced above and some of the information that is on your resume allow someone to readily fill these gaps anyway.
Studies that have shown that baby boomers may be retiring later than they hoped for, and an increasing demand for professionals, including lawyers, suggest that opportunities will be there for more experienced workers. You may not be able to land a third-year associate position, but there are other tracks in law firms and positions in-house that are viable. Package your experience and ability to immediately offer help and do so proudly – I think this positions you much better than being on the defensive.
FRANK MICHAEL D’AMORE is the founder of Attorney Career Catalysts, a Pennsylvania-based legal recruiting, consulting and training firm. He is a former partner in an AmLaw 200 firm, general counsel in privately held and publicly traded companies, and vice president of business development. He can be reached at email@example.com.