Jun 27
accept or decline phone call

Three Reasons Why Lawyers Should Respond to More Recruiter Calls

The legal market is as dynamic as it has been in a generation. The difference in compensation between the top of the market and everyone else is continuing to widen. And it’s not just compensation. It’s also the quality of work. More legal work is becoming commoditized, made routine, and less intellectually challenging. It is more important than ever to know your value in the market.

But that is not what is happening. Too many lawyers are burying their head in the sand and refusing to even find out what is going on in their market. This is true even when very little effort is required. Specifically, as career coaches to lawyers and recruitment and retention consultants to law firms, we have seen firsthand that most lawyers who are contacted and informed about a potential position don’t bother to respond. This is so regardless of whether the initial message is conveyed by email, via LinkedIn, or in a voicemail message.

And when lawyers articulate why they aren’t interested in participating in an initial exploratory call, they often come up with the same response: “I am happy where I am.” As detailed below, this response does not stand up to scrutiny for at least three reasons.

1. Lawyers Have a Flawed Understanding of Why Another Law Firm is Interested in Them

From an employer’s point of view, the best candidates are currently working in good jobs where they are generally content. The best law firms are not looking for unhappy people stuck in dead end jobs. So, of course, you are largely content in your current position. You do good work for good clients, and you have solid team around you—associates and paralegals to help serve clients and the administrative and technological resources to deliver these services on a timely and efficient basis. Your current employer also complies with the myriad of rules and regulations that apply to employers in general and law firms in particular. If this generally describes where you currently are, congratulations. That’s a sign that you’re marketable, not a reason to avoid finding out your worth in the market.

2. Lawyers Have a Misplaced Sense of Loyalty

Speaking to a recruiter or finding out about a potential opportunity is not a sign of disloyalty. It’s an act of maturity and wisdom. Too many lawyers act as if finding out about another position is a betraying of their employer. This would make more sense if law firms were guaranteeing lifetime employment akin to tenure. They aren’t. In fact, the opposite is true. Law firms are merging and losing their independence more than ever. They consider layoffs faster than ever. If you want to protect yourself and the people who matter most in your life, you should be keenly aware of how marketable you are.

3. Lawyers Dramatically Underestimate Their Options in the Job Market

Some lawyers trap themselves by acting as if every law firm is the same as their current one. The reality is that the range of law firm cultures and compensation models has never been as broad as it currently is. To cite just one example, consider the vast array of law firm responses to the question of whether lawyers and staff need to be present in an office. Some require lawyers to be in the office on a full-time basis and some allow work to be fully remote, with many hybrid situations in between. You want to be able to split your time between two different locations in the U.S.? That might be doable. I know because that question recently came up for a law firm client and they quickly concluded that, for the right candidate, they would be willing to support a lawyer part-time in a city where they currently don’t have an office.

You want to work a third fewer hours for less money? That might be doable too. You want to work under a compensation system that rewards origination more than your current firm? That’s very definitely an option. And so is the opposite- a compensation system that rewards actually providing the legal work more than being the rainmaker.

So please stop assuming that every law firm is just like yours or that no one could possibly make you more content than your current employer. Even if it’s just to gain leverage with your current employer, demonstrate the savvy and confidence you display on behalf of your clients, and at least find out what those messages you have been receiving are all about.