The new lateral numbers are out and there is a lot of movement among lawyers in the largest firms.

Still fueled by last year’s collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf (when nearly 300 partners flooded the market), the Am Law 200 posted its highest number of lateral moves in over three years. The American Lawyer Magazine’s latest lateral survey found that 2,691 partners left or joined Am Law 200 firms during the 12-month period. That was a 9.7 percent increase from the previous year, when 2,454 partners switched firms, and a 33.6 percent increase from 2010. (The numbers for 2011 were boosted in part by another big-firm failure, Howrey, which sent over 200 partners into the lateral market.)

The data suggests what we have seen over the past few months: that now is a great time to consider a lateral move as the law firm shakeups continue. We believe this trend will also trickle down to mid-sized and smaller firms outside of the AMLAW 200, as some partners are defecting from the big firms for more reasonable bill rates and origination expectations (a trend that is not tracked by the AMLAW study).

Posted in Attorney Hiring, Legal Industry Trends, Staffing Trends | Comments Off on PARTNERS MOVING AT A RATE NOT SEEN IN YEARS!


Job opportunities are starting to pick up, more attorneys are open to considering new positions, and jobs are getting filled.  All good news for employers, candidates and recruiters alike!  However, for every person that gets an offer, there are many more that are turned down.   For those who make it to the interview process, it can be a new experience or something that has not taken place for many years.

Just getting an interview can be quite an accomplishment when you are vying against hundreds of applicants.   That said, only one person is going to get the offer so don’t beat yourself up too badly if you are not one the one.  However, you should always take the time to evaluate how you did during the interview process and literally note where you thought you were deficient or other changes you would make.  It can be as simple as changing your attire to thinking about how you overcame a perceived weakness or trying situation if asked such as question.  If you find a willing interviewer, you might be able to get their direct feedback or information that they shared with your recruiter.  Of course the best time to make this assessment is immediately after the interview while it is still fresh in your mind.  Over time, there is tendency to forget about ways you could have done better or shift focus on how the interviewer/employer blew it.

The fact is that most people will go through several rounds of interview on a number of positions before getting hired – so you can expect a lot of learning opportunities.  Given a situation where the pool of interviewees is equally strong, even the smallest improvement can make the difference between getting the offer versus chalking it up as another learning experience.

Posted in Attorney Hiring, Interview Tips, Legal Recruiter | Tagged | Comments Off on INTERVIEWS: LEARNING FROM YOUR MISTAKES

Is There Too Much Credibility Placed on Reference Checks?

References are a lot like your mother – they aren’t going to say anything bad about you.  As a result, it’s my contention that there is far too much weight that is put on reference checks.  In my dozen-plus years as a recruiter, I’ve only heard a few references actually say something questionable about a candidate and only twice heard something downright awful.


Nearly every time I’ve checked references for a candidate they come back glowing.  And why shouldn’t they?  There is simply no excuse for a candidate not to call the reference ahead of time to let them know that I’m calling and find out EXACTLY what they are going to say to me.  I assume that an attorney has already done this, and if I was going to hear anything negative, then they would have given me another reference to call instead.

Even when someone wants to give a sub-par reference, they don’t do it out of fear of not knowing what to say and what repercussions it may have.  Also, people generally want to help others get a job, so if the person is not well-liked, they may get a good reference from a former coworker (“hey, they’re gone, maybe they weren’t so bad”) or a current coworker (“hey, this will get him/her out of here”).  This leads to a false positive – a satisfactory reference that isn’t warranted.  As a recruiter, we try to read between the lines and glean the reference’s true feelings on the candidate, but this is sometimes hard to do.


As I said, if you are sending the name of the reference and you don’t know what they are going to say, you deserve a bad reference.  You owe the reference the courtesy of a call before your references are checked and you should know with certainty what they are going to say about you.  In the few times I’ve checked references and it is mediocre, I assume the worst.  There have been only two times in 12 years of checking references that I’ve received an outright awful reference.  To be fair, I suspected that it was coming, too.  The poor reference confirmed what I suspected.


The non-reference is the worst kind of reference.  It’s the “I’m only allowed to confirm employment dates” reference.  It’s hard to ascertain if that’s truly the case with companies/firms that purport to only confirm dates of employment.   If you suspect that your firm/company will only confirm the dates of your employment, you need to find a partner/co-worker who will speak about you on the record.  You can assume that an employer will take “no comment” exactly the same way as newspaper reporters take it – that there is a story behind the statement.

In short, it’s assumed that references will come back glowing.  If employers really wanted to know about a candidate, they would ask to speak to someone of THEIR choosing, not someone that the attorney candidate proffers.  Until this practice changes, however, it behooves you to make sure that your potential references know that they may be called and know exactly what they will say if their called!

Posted in Attorney Hiring, Interview Tips | Comments Off on Is There Too Much Credibility Placed on Reference Checks?

Dirty Laundry

Every law firm or company has aspects that are less than desirable for some people.  In fact, this may be the reason that someone is considering a move.  However, it is never a good to dwell on this too much in an interview.

No one should tolerate an environment, attitude, or specific acts that are truly undesirable; and looking for another job is one course of action that can remedy the situation.  Just keep in mind that sharing too much can actually hurt you because you can come across as a complainer or generally create an aura of negativity (even if it is not a fair assessment).

When asked why you are considering a move in an interview, and the reason is something undesirable about your current work, then share as much as necessary to answer the question and move on.  Your answer should not describe anything in detail but essentially convey that it is not a good fit and that moving is best course of action.  Yes, the interviewer might be intrigued by the dirty laundry but in the end it comes across unprofessional and otherwise negative.  The key is turn a potential negative into a positive as quickly as possible – chalk it up to a learning experience, etc.

Posted in Attorney Hiring, Interview Tips, Legal Industry Trends, Legal Recruiter, Resume Tips | Comments Off on Dirty Laundry

Don’t Forget the “Hidden” Data In Your Legal Resume!

You’ve completed your resume and it’s ready to send out.  There are no typos and the bullet points clearly demonstrate the type of work you have done.  What could you possibly be missing?  You might have forgotten to include the “hidden data”.

The hidden data is anything that is obvious to you, but may not be obvious to the reader.  For example, if you are moving to another city, don’t assume that the reader has heard of your firm – no matter how large and impressive your firm might be in your geographic area.  Assume the reader isn’t familiar with firms, their expertise or any other ranking information.  Even in the same city, don’t forget that many attorneys are myopic on their own firm and know very little about other firms.  Help the reader by including a bullet point that does the research for them.  For example, your resume entry may look like this:

Mauer, Morneau & Blyleven, LLC                                                 Minneapolis, MN                Litigation Associate                                                                                 2008-Present

Associate at a national, 75-attorney full-service firm focusing on complex products liability, employment and commercial litigation matters……

In the example above, you have told the reader a little something about the firm from which they can make a more informed decision about your skills.  Another place you might want to add this hidden data is if your firm has a particular niche.  It’s appropriate to call out your firm’s ranking or awards if it demonstrates that you are working on sophisticated work.  For example, if your firm was ranked by a trade journal as having the “#1 Intellectual Property Litigation Group In America”, and you work in that group, you are doing yourself a disservice if you fail to include that in your resume.  It’s relevant to the reader and something that they may not know.

The same rule applies to any company that may be on your resume.  Unless the company is a household name (think Target or General Mills), plan on putting a bullet point explaining what the organization does/did.  Don’t make the reader resort to the internet to find out.

Finally, if you have anything that is international on your resume, be cognizant of the fact that many people don’t know which schools are prestigious if they are in another country.  Call out your schools ranking if it can help you!

In short, too many attorneys forget that the person who reads their resume is not in the trenches with them and may not be familiar with everything on their resume.  Help them out and include a little more detail!

Posted in Resume Tips | Comments Off on Don’t Forget the “Hidden” Data In Your Legal Resume!

The Upside to the Downturn

The economic downtown has certainly hit the legal market hard.  People have lost jobs and job openings are still in short supply. There is no denying that has been a challenging time.  However, the downturn has also forced attorneys to reevaluate their approach to practicing law – and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Law school helps people learn the law and law firms have taught new associates how to become good technical attorneys.  There is no substitute for thoroughly understanding and being able to apply your trade.  That said, what generally was missing from this equation is the business side of practicing law.  Most attorneys understand the importance of marketing even if they lack the desire to do it.  What I am talking about is something we are all capable of and is relatively easy: customer service.

The economic downturn has led businesses to reconsider what law firms to use and how often to use them.  Geographic barriers are not as strong either so businesses can look to different markets to find legal help too.  Assuming most firms employ people that have
good technical skills, the decision making process mostly boils down to bill rates (a topic unto itself) and customer service. In fact, I would argue that good customer service can overcome a moderate different difference in bill rates.  If the work is done adequately and the rates are roughly equivalent, then what separates one firm the next is the overall experience for the client.  Those firms that have relied too much on decades-long relationships, and who have grown complacent in their customer service, are now losing out firms who understand the importance of treating clients well.   This is not a novel concept, nor a difficult one to employ.  It can be as simple as returning calls/emails in a timely fashion, visiting with existing clients even when you are not “on the clock”, explaining bills more thoroughly, etc.

The downturn has forced attorneys not to take clients for granted and re-enforced the need for good customer service.   So if there is an upside to the downturn it is this: it has forced attorneys to become better at the business side of practicing law.

Posted in Lawyering Skills, Legal Industry Trends, Legal Recruiter, Marketing to Clients | Comments Off on The Upside to the Downturn

Story Time: Your Legal Resume Should Tell A Story

When you look at law firm websites, sometimes it’s really hard to distinguish one firm from another.  There’s a stylized logo, a list of practice areas, attorney biographies, some client testimonials and a running list of accolades or media links.  Many potential clients see Firm A = Firm B = Firm C.  In that algebra equation, a firm can’t win.

A few firms stand out and tell their “story” – the reason that a client should hire you.  For example, they have particularized knowledge in a practice area that makes them a thought leader in the industry or they have a passion for an industry.  When clients see these firms, the message speaks to them.

The problem is that you can’t speak to everyone, so by default, some firms’ marketing speaks to no one.

Apply that principle to your resume.  Are you a general litigator who can handle anything from a slip-and-fall case to a complex multi-jurisdictional matter?  If so, who are you speaking to in your resume?  Unless the reader is looking for the broadest litigation experience possible, the chances are that you are speaking no one.

Your resume has to tell your story – or at least the right narrative for the reader.  You have a chance to tweak your resume to tell a slightly different story each time you send out your resume.  Not doing that is a lost opportunity.  Having a standard resume that attempts to highlight everything you’ve done as an attorney is more likely to speak to no one than the most important person (the reader).  Sell the story behind your skills to demonstrate your passion and expertise and your job search will go much more smoothly!


Posted in Marketing to Clients, Resume Tips | Comments Off on Story Time: Your Legal Resume Should Tell A Story

Choosing the Right Writing Sample

During the interview process, many law firms will ask candidates to provide a writing sample.  This is especially true of junior to mid-level associate positions.  Undoubtedly, this has caused angst for many a candidate.  Not only can it be a matter of selecting the correct type of writing sample, but also trying to figure what style of writing is preferred by the potential employer.

If you have practiced as an associate at a law firm, you are likely aware that partners have different preferences when it comes to writing and you learn to adapt to their individual style.  So how do you know what type of writing style a potential employer seeks? The key is to not make assumptions and just stick with a sample that best suits your style.  Presumably, this is the style that you are most comfortable with and are likely to choose when drafting initial assignments at the new firm.  Of course, if your default style is too far afield then gravitate towards a sample that reflects more traditional legal writing if are comfortable with such style going forward.

It often happens that associates have few examples of written works that reflect their true style.  Many assignments begin with an existing document that was prepared by someone else, which is then tweaked for that particular assignment.  It may also be the case that another attorney either co-writes or has significant input on the document that might otherwise be used a sample. If either case applies to you, and you have no other sample that would be appropriate, then submit one that you worked on with assistance (with full disclosure) and submit another sample (even if slightly off the mark) reflecting your true writing style.

While the ultimate objective in the interview process is securing a job offer, it is a mistake to purport to be something you are not or otherwise unwilling to be – whether during an interview or providing supplemental material such as a writing sample.  It is best to pick a writing sample that accurately reflects your ability and let the employer decide if it suits their style or gives them enough to work with to make it a successful hire.


Posted in Attorney Hiring, Interview Tips, Legal Recruiter | Comments Off on Choosing the Right Writing Sample

Using A Recruiter For Your Next Job Search.

While not exactly on the topic of resumes, I think that many will find it useful to know a couple of tips on how to effectively use a recruiter for your next job search.

  1. Recruiters can’t help everyone.  Recruiters have niches and specific clients.  Learn what those are and you can better understand if this recruiter is right for you.  If your recruiter doesn’t do temporary or contract placements, it’s futile to ask for those.  If your recruiter doesn’t work with personal injury or insurance defense firms, no amount of following up with him/her will help.
  2. Understand that recruiters using an executive search model are looking for the best candidates for any given position.  Recruiters in a law registry are looking for anyone.  Executive search-based recruiters get paid to find an exact match to the job description.  They also get paid to make judgment calls.  It’s okay to question a recruiter and point out where your experience lies on the experience spectrum, but even great recruiters can’t force a square peg in a round hole.
  3. Recruiters work best when exposed to the “real” you.  Be honest and forthright with your recruiter about your skills and what you like and don’t like about a firm/job.  Think of recruiters as a financial advisor or doctor – the more you keep them in the dark about who you are and what you really need, the less effective they will be. Exaggerating credentials or accomplishments wont’ get better results; it just skews the data used to find a good fit for you.
  4. Be responsive.  When you have engaged a recruiter and a recruiter calls or emails because they need information, they usually need it RIGHT NOW.  Make a point to call them back.  Your delay might reflect poorly on your candidacy.
  5. Think about what you need to accept a position BEFORE you see the offer letter.  Waiting to decide if you are willing to take a job until they offer it is a bad strategy.  Most recruiters will push you to know what you would need to accept a job long before you ever receive a job offer.  Do the mental gymnastics to determine what would make you accept a new job BEFORE you interview and use the interview process to see if the job meets your needs.  Keeping the recruiter informed as to your needs removes the need for unnecessary interviews.
  6. Recruiters are not resume-writing services.  Nor are they spellcheckers.  Do this work on your own.
  7. Guard your resume and who represents you.  Don’t work with a recruiter who asks for any sort of exclusivity in representing you (two caveats to this:  first, tell your recruiter about other opportunities that you are pursuing; next, know that once you have given a recruiter permission to submit your resume for a position, that specific company/firm should be the recruiter’s exclusive opportunity).  Importantly, be sure that a recruiter seeks your permission each and every time personal information is released.

While not exhaustive, we hope that this list is a starting point for how to use a recruiter most effectively.  We try to help as many people as we can, but the truth is that we can’t help everyone.  We do hope that everyone feels that they were treated fairly and with respect – ever recruiter should strive for that.  Regardless, when used properly and for the right candidates, recruiters are a great way to find your new position and advance your career.


Posted in Legal Recruiter, Staffing Trends | Comments Off on Using A Recruiter For Your Next Job Search.

Invest In Your #1 Asset at the Law Firm: Your Attorneys

“No organization can do better than the people it has.”
-Peter Drucker, Management Guru (1909-2005)

As we approach the new year, if your organization is looking to add an attorney in the near future, the time to start looking is NOW.  Law firms should start thinking about strategic hiring at the associate level and opportunistic hiring at the partner level.  Associates are most open to hearing about opportunities in the new year and partners tend to lose the golden handcuffs holding them at their current firm early in the first quarter of the year.

And as Harvey Mackay says, let this be your acid test when considering new employees: “ask yourself how you would feel about the candidate working for your competition instead of you .”

Have a great holiday season from all of us at Sand Search Partners!




Posted in Attorney Hiring, Legal Industry Trends | Comments Off on Invest In Your #1 Asset at the Law Firm: Your Attorneys