As legal recruiters, we meet, connect and work with a lot of different people every day. We understand differences in personalities and enjoy networking so we can match the right people to the right firm — it’s all part of the job!
What you probably don’t know, though, is how and why we got to where we are. Maybe you’ve never heard how we ended up in the legal industry or even at Kinney Recruiting, so we think it’s important that we tell you a little bit more about ourselves. This is why we decided to start a series that will introduce you to all our recruiters.
This week, we’re featuring Chris Miller: sports aficionado, avid tweeter and Kinney’s Chicago recruiter.
The first piece in this series discussed how to “Ace Your Phone Interview in Five Simple Steps”. Now, we’re focusing on the in-person interview because you can never do enough prep-work when you’re trying to land the perfect position.
By the time you enter a major firm for a sit-down conversation, you’ve been through a lot. You made the decision to at least seriously consider leaving your old firm (probably because you were unhappy), you also had to search for a recruiter, find the right position, submit your application materials and maybe even attend a mock interview with your recruiter — trust us, it’s for your own good. But, be it because of nerves or just plain stress, there are still a few errors candidates make time and time again. And when a candidate flubs in an interview with an associate or partner, it could cost them the job. So to do our part to help out, we’ve laid out four tips to consider before you step foot in your next big interview.
Don’t Fixate on Hours and Compensation
Here’s the thing: If you really want the job, then show your interviewers that you really want the job. It’s that simple. Don’t go in dukes up, ready to fight for the perfect salary or ideal hours. You want the interviewer to like you, and you want the job, obviously. The negotiating can be done later.
Just a heads up, this is what the process should look like: Sell yourself first, then get the offer, then negotiate salary and hours. No interviewer at any firm will ever find a candidate pleasant or easy to work with when that candidate has an attitude about the pay or the hours of the firm. And if it really is that big of an issue, maybe it’s not the right firm for you in the first place. But regardless, that’s something to talk over with your recruiter who has a relationship with the people at the firm, not for you to deal with.
Often, the very first conversation a candidate will have with a potential employer is via a phone call or screening interview. These calls are typically short in length, 15-30 minutes, and are designed to help a potential employer evaluate you as a candidate as quickly as possible. Since today’s candidate pool is a global one, and technology permits employers to easily vet multiple candidates regardless of their time zone (whilst saving employers valuable company time), remote interviewing has become an increasingly common step in the hiring process. So, as a candidate, what is the goal of a phone screen and how do you ace this integral part of the process?
Quite simply, your goal is to convert a phone screen into an in-person meeting. Here’s how:
Step 1: Take the call in a quiet place with clear cell reception
Use of a landline is preferable, but most candidates opt to use their cell phones. Fair or not, poor cell reception or distracting background noise can reflect negatively on a candidate. Since you are unable to read an interviewer’s nonverbal cues (facial expressions, body language, etc.), phone interviewing can be tricky. Ensure that the available channel of communication is as clear and open as possible. I suggest taking the call from your home where you have more control over your environment.
Step 2: Allow the interviewer to frame the call
Listen carefully to an interviewer’s opening pitch and their tone. Some phone screens last only a few minutes and are designed to elicit select pieces of information about you or your experience. It is not the job of a candidate to awkwardly extend a phone screen. Most screening calls, though, balance experience questions with personality-type questions or the “airport test”. (Would a hiring manager want to be stuck in an airport with you?) Being astute, listening and discerning the intent of an interviewer’s line of questioning allows you to effectively craft your responses.
At Kinney, our recruiters are often jetting off and spending time half way across the world. We believe it’s important to sit down with our clients and candidates on a regular basis, so there’s no substitute for getting on the road. We don’t have huge travel budgets, though, so we depend on upgrades for extra comfort, as most of us stay in hotels that are comfortable but not lavish. Through the pain of many miles traveled on less than unlimited funds, we have become professionals in extracting maximum value from the travel industry. So we’re letting you in on a few of our travel secrets as we head into the summer months.
1. Pick a frequent flyer program and stick with it.
There are a lot of airlines, and they all suck if you are just “gen-pop” → “general population”. There will be a lot of aggravation no matter what your status. American Airlines is the last of the major airlines to offer it’s highest level of status to travelers who fly a lot of miles on as few dollars as possible. United and Delta are now requiring a minimum spend. Most of us are AA flyers as a result.
2. Plan ahead with carry-ons and extra baggage.
Although that briefcase or extra backpack you carried on the plane may contain something you desperately need, think twice before sticking it under your seat. Invest in a set of these clear mesh bags and use them to organize the things you might need at your seat (chargers, headphones, pens). The laptop can go in the seat-back pocket for takeoff. Put the rest of your stuff overhead and save your legs.
3. Don’t check bags if you can help it.
Check bags only as a last resort. Evan Jowers, on his way to Hong Kong recently, had his bags become lost for five days. Luckily he had planned to be on holiday. On international trips the airline is only liable for a maximum compensation (per passenger) for lost bags of about $1585, as of June 2015 (the amount floats based on a basket of currencies). There are very few business-trip bags whose contents could be replaced for under $1600.
Counteroffers are a tricky beast. Receiving one feels great, and accepting one, like eating a bunch of french fries just once in awhile, can be a guilty pleasure with limited consequences. But counteroffers have the potential to wreak havoc on your job search timeline, damage your reputation and even squash real opportunity if you let them. Though there is always risk in a job search, such as the risk that your current firm will find out that you’re looking for outside opportunities before you are safely on the roster at a new firm, a counteroffer can throw another complication into the mix.
How you handle a counter can call into question your intentions and loyalty. To accept one is to make yourself the bad guy at both your suitor firm and your current firm — not only were you secretive about your job search (for obvious reasons) and dissatisfied to such a degree that you seriously considered harm to your firm for personal gain, but also you have now betrayed the new commitment you’ve made to your new firm. More than likely you have also said a few things to the suitor firm about the old one that were calculated to ingratiate you to the new firm, and should you accept a counteroffer, it won’t look so great. Here’s how to navigate and leverage the situation with the end result landing you in a chair (or staying in your old one) at the firm with the greatest opportunity. Consider this is your handy counteroffers rulebook also known as:
How to Avoid Screwing the Pooch.
Picture this: You’ve put in several years at your current firm, and over the course of those years you have identified one or two ways that your firm is not serving you or your clients. Whether they offer only narrow upward mobility, less-than-ideal compensation structure or a platform with limited reach, you’ve already cast the proverbial net in shallow waters in hopes of catching your big break. This net probably includes a knowledgeable recruiter who will be able to tell you both when it’s time for you to move and where you might look. You’re introduced to a firm with your ideal combination of a rich culture, global platform, stellar clients, and all of those other nice qualities that will take your practice to the next level. You make it through rounds and rounds of interviews and meetings and lunches, all the while becoming well-acquainted with people you can envision yourself working alongside. You land and accept a kick ass job offer from this great firm and confidently submit resignation at your old one. It’s a done deal, and you feel really good about it.
A recent article in The Economist discussed ‘How to join the 1%’. The article starts by saying, “Management consultants, investment banks and big law firms are the Holy Trinity of white-collar careers.” To many of our candidates and most of our clients, this statement is a truism. The article concludes by counseling that the key to joining the 1% is not so much brainpower but self-confidence and people skills. This is something that we at Kinney Recruiting have known for a long time. While, for better or worse, we work primarily with elite candidates, many just don’t cut it to progress through the biglaw ranks because of intangibles. Some of our most successful placements have been people who were less brainy and more people-skilled. The article got me thinking: What does our experience tell us about the best tips for getting and staying with the biglaw elite?
[Caveat: In our opinion, one remains a part of the biglaw elite so long as he/she is employed in a “desirable” position from the point of view of an attorney at the same level. Though always rare, the closer a biglaw partner gets to retirement age, the fewer such jobs exist outside of biglaw.]
Step 1: Focus your College Career
Starting in undergrad and through law school, have an idea of what your goals are. If it’s getting into a top ten law school or joining a top ten firm, keep in mind that your grades and GPA are going to matter. Sure, everyone wants the typical college experience, but sometimes you have to think of the big picture. If you want to graduate at the top of your class, you’re going to need to spend
some time a lot of time in the library. And when you’re not studying, you should be thinking about what area of law you want to work in. While in law school, explore the type of law that interests you through your internships. Having a job offer before you graduate with your JD is key, so take the time a figure out exactly what direction to steer your career.
Step 2: Learn a Language
With so many firms going international, being fluent in a second language is a huge advantage. It’s naive to think that big firms these days are only working with English-speakers. You will have the opportunity to use most languages in the course of your work, and if you are working in Asia for example, you will absolutely need to speak the local language to converse with clients. That’s why we recommend you learn a language. The truth is that native English speakers who have actually learned to speak a foreign language well enough to easily and fluently converse in the language are just more interesting and self-confident than those who haven’t bothered. As such, they perform better in interviews. Better performance in interviews means more offers. Done.
At Kinney Recruiting we like to collect and use data to help people make informed decisions. Now that we’re almost half-way through 2015, we wanted to take a look back at what we saw in 2014 so we could give some thoughts on what the rest of 2015 will hold for those looking at potential lateral moves in the Chicago market. As always, we reserve a fair amount of our data for our clients and candidates, so if you any questions about the information below, please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the course of the last five years (2010 through 2014), lateral partner moves in Chicago have predominantly come in three major practice areas: Corporate, Intellectual Property and Litigation. The latter category leads the way in total number of moves, 56, but moves in IP practices saw the biggest percentage increase. Partnership movement increased in all three areas from 2013 to 2014. The number of Litigation partner lateral hires has grown each year since 2010 and in 2014 there was a 14% jump from 2013. Corporate partner lateral moves were up 23% in 2014 and the IP partner moves were up 56% from 2013. A couple of other areas worthy of note because of increased velocity were in Labor & Employment and Government. There was a 100% increase in L&E Partner lateral hires and a 200% increase in Government partner lateral hires.
The same three areas of law that dominated the partnership lateral hires were similarly active for associate moves. In all three areas there was positive growth in the five year period from 2010-2014. But despite an increase in lateral hiring of partners from 2013 to 2014, the trend was actually reversed for associates. In this time frame, Corporate laterals dropped the most with a 62% decrease in hires. Lateral litigation associate hires dropped 38% and IP dropped 13%. Despite the large increase in partnership laterals in Labor & Employment from 2013 to 2014, there was a dip of 29% for the associates. Areas such as Bankruptcy-Corporate Restructuring and Healthcare stayed even for the year and there was an increase for ERISA/Employee Benefits laterals.
Those of us at Kinney Recruiting have built a lot of connections and friendships over the years with law firm partners and staff. Luckily, most of us are likeable most of the time, and we don’t have many enemies (though there are a few small firms and one large firm out there who don’t like us because we made them pay their bills when they would rather have not, but that’s another story).
So we tend to see lots of opportunities.
One of our favorite things to do for firms is a major “soup to nuts” staffing project for a new office. We’ve become experts at that, and I thought it might be useful to use the backdrop of recent experience to describe the anatomy of how that sort of deal can work well for firms considering opening a new office.
Last year we had the opportunity to be part of the team tasked with the exclusive to staff a major office in a major U.S. city. Initially, after identifying and onboarding a few of the key lateral partners, we were asked how we would suggest coordinating rapid hire of as many as 25 or 30 associates. So what was the process for recruiting an entire team? Below I’ve outlined the basic steps we took and a few of the considerations we had during the process.
The office opened with a strong M&A/PE team. In an initial meeting with the recently added partners and those in charge of hiring, we established the hiring criteria for candidates. We were asked to focus first on just one practice area (M&A/Private Equity) for the associate build-out, the most pressing need.
We helped the client understand the market for the level of talent they sought. Together, we developed our strategy, which in the case of this particular client necessitated willingness to pay significant cash signing bonuses.
Our first priority was to get as many 1-4 year attorneys as we could to interview. Since the firm had several needs, including the addition of Finance and CAPM Partners, Kinney was able to make contact with 100’s of attorneys nationwide, many of whom were people we already knew.
Some lawyers are best-served beavering away in the firm where they have worked since law school. For most legal careers, though, there come inflection points where a change of job can open a whole new world of opportunity.
Recognizing whether your career has reached such an inflection point, and then knowing whom to trust to help you in finding that career-expanding opportunity are big tasks. If you find the right legal recruiter though, one with the experience and network to find you the position you need and a personality compatible with yours, it can make a world of difference.
It’s our job to know the ins and outs of the industry. The candidates we work with are busy, so they rely on a us for discretion and advice. From our combined years of experience and hundreds of placements made around the world, we’ve come up with a few reasons as to why getting to know a good legal recruiter and regularly checking in for his or her advice is usually the best thing you can do for yourself.
As mentioned above, a recruiter is going to have more inside information to the culture of a firm, hiring trends, salaries and bonuses, than just about anyone. In some markets, we have literally been asked by firms to help them develop the incentive packages that they offer to associates. We often have a personal relationship with the hiring manager or even the partner doing the hiring. Sometimes we actually placed the partner in his or her job, or convinced him that staying in his job is the right call. This brings us distinct advantages in the job-search process, including knowledge of the interviewing styles the lawyers use and specific techniques a firm is looking for.
This week we are publishing the third part of our special report on lateral hiring trends in the legal market. In our prior postings we reported on the trends in lateral hiring of law firm partners and associates. This week our attention shifts to lateral hiring for of counsel positions.
These reports are based on market data we have collected on our own over the last five years. As previously mentioned, several general caveats should be noted about our methodology and the scope of the data collection:
- this report only covers data for the top 200 American law firms;
- it covers lateral hiring practices in 19 major domestic markets;
- we collect this data on our own and make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy;
- the associate numbers in particular may be subject to underreporting (more so than partner lateral hiring) simply due to law firm policy regarding public announcement
Despite these caveats we believe the data available to us and as presented here is directionally accurate as to general market trends. We also make this data available by email subscription (sign up at the bottom of this article).
Of Counsel Lateral Hiring Trends 2010 – 2014
Not surprisingly the 5-year trend for of counsel lateral hiring follows the same general pattern we discussed previously regarding law firm partners and associates. After tailing off sharply in the years immediately following the Great Recession, large law firms gradually resumed a more normal and elevated pace for lateral hiring of counsel positions as shown in the chart below.
But notice over the course of the last three years how of counsel lateral hiring has held remarkably steady. This is true in the aggregate as well as when we look at the numbers broken down by geographical region or major practice areas; there has been very little variability in the level of counsel hiring from 2012 to 2014. This stands in sharp contrast to the trends we discussed previously for lateral hiring of both partners and associates, where there is considerable variability year over year. Compared to the clocklike regularity with of counsel hiring, partner lateral hiring dropped by 6.4% from 2012 to 2013 and associate lateral hiring fell off by more than 36% from 2013 to 2014.