You’ve heard it all before: It’s all about who you know. You have to put yourself out there. You need to build your network.
So, needless to say, it has been interesting to see the counterpoint to this old adage presented in articles such as ‘Networking Tips for Contrarians’ and ‘99% of Networking is a Waste of Time.’ These pieces brought up many good points, some of which warrant further development.
Networking is a big part of my job. If I don’t have the right connection with the right person who trusts my judgment enough to interview a candidate I like, then I need to find someone who does. That’s part of the reason we operate as a group.
I can’t be everywhere and I can’t know everyone and, as hard as it is to admit this even to myself sometimes, not everyone is going to like or trust me. So the more people with whom I have a positive, trusting relationship, either my own or by proxy through a colleague, the more our candidates will benefit. It seems pretty simple and it is the reason all of us at Kinney spend a fair amount of time every year on the road cultivating our “friendship garden.”
This week we sat down with Chris Miller (yes, we have two Chris Millers on our team). Chris is a Texas-native and currently recruiting in our Dallas office.
Why or how did you become a legal recruiter?
After a brief but illustrious stint at the practice of law in Houston, I had the opportunity to help grow a technology company in California and Texas. Nine years later, it was time to take on a new challenge, so I reached out to my old friend Robert Kinney. Listening to Robert talk about his business and the industry, I was convinced that I could add something of value to the operation, so I agreed to join. Now if I could just remember what that something was. . .
What’s been the hardest lesson you had to learn as a recruiter?
It is difficult to realize and accept that even what appear to be the most obvious and mutually beneficial transactions still don’t always happen and often these deals break down for reasons that are completely outside of your individual control.
We caught up with our fun and outgoing recruiter Rachel Huey this week. We talked about everything from what motivates her to her proudest moment on the job.
How did you become a legal recruiter?
With some incredible luck and timing, I fell into the business right out of college. I majored in advertising in school but realized quickly that an agency job wasn’t going to be the career that really worked for me. So instead, I applied for a communications-oriented job that a legal recruiter had posted online on behalf of one of her clients in the Dallas area.
When I met with her, we had a lot to talk about but also agreed that the posted position wasn’t a fit for me. She then inquired whether I would be interested in working under her to learn to recruit professionals in the legal community. I said yes and, three years later, it’s still the best decision I have ever made. This job is not for the faint of heart, but it’s the best.
What’s been your favorite placement and why?
My favorite placement was the first time I placed a friend candidate with a friend client. One of my great friends was looking for an associate to start with his high-end litigation boutique, and I had another friend who was less-than-happy at her current gig. She was grinding it out at her firm and felt more like a pencil pusher than an advocate for her clients. She mentioned to me in passing over happy hour that she was kinda-sorta keeping her eyes out for a change, something with the right kind of work and culture fit. Though I knew the both of them from what felt like opposite ends of the universe, a light bulb went on.
For our series this week, we’re featuring Jack Hopper, Kinney’s enthusatic managing director!
Why did you become a legal recruiter?
I practiced law for ten years and was looking for a change. My best friend had become a legal recruiter and actually placed me in-house. He thought I would make a great legal recruiter, so I decided to make the switch in 1998 and have never looked back. It has been the best decision career-wise I have ever made.
What’s been your favorite placement and why?
I placed a young lawyer in Miami, Florida with an elite litigation boutique. I met him and knew right away he had the “right stuff”. The client was very particular pedigree wise, and I convinced them to interview my candidate, even though he was not the “best on paper”. They took my advice, interviewed him and called me to say, “You were right.” They made him an offer, and he is now a partner there.
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.