Your Perfect Partner for Legal Recruiting

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How do legal recruiters work?

Legal recruiters, also known as legal headhunters, are professionals who help place attorneys in law firms and corporations, as well as in other types of legal positions. They serve an important role in the legal industry by connecting qualified candidates with open positions. Here is an overview of how legal recruiters operate:

The Search Process

When a law firm or corporate legal department has an opening, they often retain a legal recruiter to help find experienced lawyers to fill the role. The recruiter gets specifics of the position from the law firm or corporate legal department, including the required skills and experience, salary range, practice area, and other pertinent details.

With this information in hand, the legal recruiter then gets to work identifying and reaching out to prospective applicants. They tap into the extensive network  they have built up over years in the industry. A good legal recruiter will have a robust database full of attorney contacts and relationships with law schools and bar associations.

It is important to note that more often than not, legal recruiters typically do not work with law students or law school graduates who do not have post-law school legal experience. Employers are able to find entry-level talent easily (they typically contact law school career services offices directly) and therefore, do not want to pay a legal recruiter to fill these positions.

Outreach to Candidates

Once the legal recruiter has identified promising experienced candidates, they make personal contact to gauge the potential candidate’s interest. This usually begins with an introductory phone call where they describe the open position and encourage the lawyer to pursue the opportunity. The initial call helps the recruiter determine if the candidate has the interest, as well as the experience and credentials sought by the particular employer.  to merit submitting their resume.

If there is interest on both sides, the conversation may get into more depth on experience and fit. The headhunter will also inquire about the candidate’s current compensation, desired salary range, geographic preferences, practice area(s) of focus, preferred workplace culture, and career objectives. In evaluating applicants, legal recruiters not only consider hard skills and qualifications but also personality traits and other soft factors that make for a good employer-candidate matching.  Legal recruiters are under an ethical obligation to get a candidate’s explicit permission to submit their application materials to a particular employer or employers.  They should not blast the candidate’s materials to any and all legal employers randomly just to try and get an employer to bite. 


After the first round of outreach, the legal recruiter may vet promising applicants further. This vetting could include verifying credentials, academic background, specialty skills, and professional references through checking various sources. They need to ensure candidates are who they claim to be and there are no unpleasant surprises.

The Legal Recruiter’s Role

Once the potential candidate has provided the legal recruiter permission to submit them to an employer (or several employers)  and the recruiter has completed their vetting process satisfactorily, the application process begins. 

It’s important for candidates to know that the legal recruiter typically serves as the intermediary  between the employer and candidate throughout the application process from the initial interviews through determining a start date in the event of a successful match.  

Submission of Candidate Materials & Interviews

The recruiter will prepare and submit the candidate’s resume and supporting materials to their employer contact. If the interest is mutual, the employer will arrange client interviews for the candidate and communicate that to the recruiter, who will then pass the information along to the candidate.  The recruiter will likely schedule a call with the candidate to prepare them for the interview; during the call, the recruiter may provide the candidate critical “insider” information about the employer, such as information about the candidate’s interviewers, firm culture, the firm’s priorities in filling the role, among other things. They will also discuss how to answer frequently asked questions and discuss questions the candidate should ask the employer. 

Typically, if the initial interview goes well, candidates may go through subsequent rounds of interviews to meet other relevant individuals at the employer.

Job Offer Support

If all the interviews go well and the company intends to extend an offer, the legal recruiter advises the candidate on the terms of the job offer and helps with any necessary negotiations with regard to the compensation, benefits, and all other hiring details.  Legal recruiter’s past experience and familiarity with the particular employer is critical, as they can advise the candidate on the strength of the offer and the nuances of the particular employer, such as what areas of the offer would be open for negotiation. 

Follow Up Services

Even after placement, the work of the legal headhunter may not be done. They will usually follow up periodically with the candidate to ensure their satisfaction with the employer and vice versa.  A good legal recruiter wants to maintain the relationship with the candidate and the employer for future opportunities that arise.

Fees and Commissions

It is important to note that the employer pay the fees and commissions to the recruiter for the placement, not the candidate.  Additionally, the fees and commissions do not come out of the candidate’s salary or any signing bonus; they are from the employer itself and completely separate from candidate’s salaries or bonus.  

Many legal recruiters work on a contingency basis, meaning they only receive payment if they are successful in filling a position. Typical fees range from 15-30% of the placed attorney’s first year compensation. Some boutique legal search firms charge retainers upfront and take lower backend commissions upon completion of a search. Larger search firms tend to solely use the contingency fee model. In most fee agreements, a candidate must remain at the firm for a period of time, ranging between 90 days and 1 year, for the legal recruiter to earn their fee.

Final Words 

For experienced attorneys seeking legal jobs, and for law firms and corporate legal departments needing talent, retaining a legal recruiter is typically an investment worth making.  For experienced lawyers, legal recruiters can help them get in front of an employer in a way that might not occur if the lawyer submits their materials to the employer directly.  For legal employers, legal recruiters take the time finding top notch candidates, thereby making the employer’s search shorter and more efficient by cutting out much of the time it takes for the employer to review the voluminous materials they receive from direct applicants.  A legal recruiter’s contacts, resources, experience, and hiring expertise typically produces optimal results for legal employers and candidates alike.

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