Working with law firms is not for everyone, and many recruiters do good work that too often goes underappreciated.
However, legal recruiters have become less effective in the last year for reasons that are market-driven. After the demand for recruiters plummeted during the pandemic, it has in recent months surged to a level that’s overloading the system. Even some large law firms are struggling to get their calls to recruiters returned.
What that means for you as a candidate is that a recruitment-based model probably isn’t your best bet. If you’re looking to join a firm outside of the Am Law 200, be vigilant in finding out what a given recruiter actually brings to the table. Does this person have strong ties at the firms you’re targeting and credibility with the decision-makers who have the power to hire you? Recruiters raise the cost of hiring you, so make sure that they actually strengthen your position with a particular law firm enough to make the expense worthwhile.
We have long advised attorneys not to rely exclusively on recruiters, and the landscape of the legal industry right now makes a more direct approach all the more necessary. For partner-level candidates or anyone with a portable book of business that exceeds a third of their desired base pay, the process of looking to join a different firm should begin with a Lateral Partner Questionnaire (LPQ).
An LPQ focuses on the issues that ultimately determine your economic value. The people who are considering hiring you will want to know what revenues you expect to contribute and how you plan to maintain and expand on your current client roster. You should therefore collect information about your rates, history of billable hours, and revenues over the previous three years. The LPQ is essentially a short-form business and marketing plan, which is why it is, in many ways, more important than a simple resume. It generally takes 2-5 dedicated hours to gather and aggregate this kind of information, so you’d be wise to prepare this data before you start reaching out to prospective employers and referral sources.
After completing your sample LPQ, be judicious about when you disclose its contents. The best approach is to reveal information selectively, and only if the hiring process with a firm is progressing well. For example, it’s commonplace at the beginning of the process with a specific firm to reveal your billable hour rates and your annualized portable book of business. But be careful about disclosing the names of specific clients and, even more so, any contact information for those clients. Client names can be revealed gradually, starting with two or three examples. If you get to the point where a conflict check is in order, then a broader disclosure of clients will be necessary.
LPQs have been around for a long time, but they are new to many lawyers who have not gone through the hiring process recently. In our work as consultants, we often advise lawyers on how to complete these forms and how to handle other aspects of a modern job search.