Selecting The Right Legal Recruiting Firm

By: Vanessa Vidal

In light of the multitude of legal recruiting firms out there, how do you go about selecting the right legal recruiting firm for your company?

1. Look at Their Specialization

When selecting a recruiting firm to conduct your attorney search, you should strictly narrow your search to legal recruiting firms.


If you were to undergo bypass heart surgery, you would select a cardiac surgeon rather than a general surgeon to perform your operation. A recruiting firm specialized in the search and placement of attorneys possesses a deeper understanding of the industry itself, attorneys in particular, and of the process needed to ensure the results you are seeking.

A legal recruiting firm has developed the contacts and network to identify and deliver the type of legal talent you seek. They simply have greater access to and knowledge of qualified attorneys around the country than another other type of recruiting firm.

2. Look at Their Industry Focus

Is your legal recruiting firm focused on the legal in-house marketplace? Does your legal recruiting firm have the resources and expertise to stay current with respect to in-house positions and shifting market forces?

The ongoing debate about legal department recruiting versus law firm recruiting has served to underline an interesting fact: companies and law firms typically hire and select attorney candidates based on different sets of criteria.

Both are looking for talented and highly skilled attorneys to join their ranks, but companies tend to look for candidates that not only possess certain legal skills, but who can also become part of the company’s overall business. Companies hire attorneys that possess all of the attributes necessary to be effective legal counsels as well as successful business partners.

Legal recruiting firms focused on in-house attorney recruiting understand the particular attributes required of an in-house counsel. As a result, they know how to identify and select potential candidates based on the particular needs of companies. Legal recruiting firms that also service law firms, place contract attorneys, paralegal, secretaries etc., are generally not as focused, nor as knowledgeable about this particular niche market, and therefore not as well-equipped to find and select the right candidates.

A legal recruiting firm focused on in-house attorney recruiting can mobilize all of its efforts and resources for the sole purpose of identifying candidates that best meet your particular needs. Rather than spread resources and legal recruiters’ efforts over several areas, a specialized legal recruiting firm that focuses exclusively on the in-house legal market will provide you with the most effective and efficient search services available.

3. Look at Their Methodology

You should expect a legal recruiting firm to do more than simply review resumes and send out rejection letters.

Screening the correct and “true attorney” for your position is critical. What is the background of the legal recruiters who will be identifying and screening these potential candidates. Are they attorneys themselves? How well do they understand the market? The industry? What kind of screening methods do they use?

Hiring mistakes can be extremely expensive, and ensuring that your legal recruiting firm has the talent and methodology to effectively screen and select the right candidates is crucial.

4. Look at Their References and Results

A legal recruiting firm reluctant to provide references automatically raises a red flag.

If a company has interviewed two equally good legal recruiting firms for a particular search, the next obvious step is to contact at least a couple of references. Keep this in mind: not all legal recruiting firms are alike, and therefore references should be treated accordingly.

Be sure to take into consideration how long the legal recruiting firm has been in business, and what level of success it has achieved. You cannot equally compare a legal recruiting firm that has been in business for twenty years over one that has been in business for five, or one with a hundred recruiters versus one with less than ten.

In this business, older and bigger does not necessarily mean better. In fact, smaller legal recruiting firms can typically provide more competitive rates, a higher level of personal service, and often more effective overall results. Smaller legal recruiting firms represent fewer clients, and therefore focus on delivering cost-effective and successful results to ensure repeat business.

When considering a recruiting firm, beware of legal recruiting firms that have extensive experience representing companies in your industry. While they may dazzle you with their extensive client roster, industry experience, and large teams of legal recruiters, this sort of success may actually work against your best interest.

Legal recruiting firms with long client lists come with limitations. They are more likely to be representing several clients at once on similar searches.   As a result, client preferences become inevitable, and that may not be good news for you. If you were conducting a general counsel search on behalf of your long-time client who is paying significantly more than a new client in the same city or industry also conducting a general counsel search, to whom would you present your best candidates?  As a client you should expect to be presented with the best candidates, without having to compete internally with other company clients.  Unfortunately, that is often not the case, especially when the recruiting firm is very large, and works on simultaneous search assignments.

These same legal recruiting firms are also more likely to be bound by non-solicitation agreements, preventing them from contacting attorneys from these very same companies you would probably want to recruit from. In other words, if they are acting ethically, they may be victims of their own success, and be severely restricted from contacting and presenting all qualified candidates to your company because of client conflicts.


Selecting the “right” legal recruiting firm for your attorney search can be a challenging process. However, by considering these various factors you should be able to narrow down your choices to recruiting firms that are better positioned to provide you with the results you are looking for.

Written on: 01/13/16 PDF Version