Hello. I am a headhunter calling from….


Research shows, on average, a BigLaw partner is head hunted 2000 a week. Ok, that is an exaggeration but I am sure to some it feels like that. Unfortunately the barriers to entry are so low in the legal recruitment industry all you need is a phone and the internet. As such, not all recruiters are equal. Lateral partner recruitment is very different to other forms of recruitment as there are so many different issues to consider.

Below are my three top tips to consider when thinking about choosing a head hunter:

  1. Do they work for GSL Partners? No? Don’t use them.

           Ok, the serious part of this post starts now….

  1. What is their track record? A simple point but very important. Experience of partner moves is key and this means they need to have a number of years’ experience. Other issues to consider are the types of firm’s they have worked with and what moves have they brokered in the market. Lateral recruitment throws up so many curve balls such as structure of remuneration, strategy and conflicts that a seasoned recruiter will be able to spot these issues before they come up and save everyone a lot of time. Also, pay less attention to the size of the company. Despite having a strong global brand, GSL is still very small. We are selective with who we work with and don’t take a cookie-cutter approach to recruitment. Compare that to some of the global giants (many of whom are listed businesses) where they are driven simply by quarterly profit reports and as such may take less time to find out what is important to you. Recruitment is a people business rather than a typical B2B enterprise after all.
  1. Are they retained by a firm? I get this question a lot from partners. Other recruiters are always eager to tell the world they are retained by a firm. After all it is a great thing to be retained by a law firm but only for the recruiter and not the partner. This may sound counter to your instincts but in reality, where a recruiter has been retained to call you up they are usually contracted to introduce you only to that firm and no others. This exclusive relationship is great for the recruiter as it means they are not in competition with anyone and a commission is almost guaranteed. But if you are making a life-changing move which will impact everything from your commute to your salary do you really want to speak to one firm or a number of firms to see which offers the best opportunity? GSL works on a retained exclusive basis with 2 firms world-wide. These are firms we truly believe are the best in their space and offer the best opportunity for partners. With these retained clients, if a candidate wishes to speak to other firms I always recommend a competitor I respect but have every confidence my client won’t be bettered. All other firms who wish to work with us do so on a non-exclusive basis so we can offer the best service to our candidates rather than the law firm. The reason for this is simple – if the partner is not happy after their move they will leave and we would have failed both parties.
  1. Long term or short term? You can spot the short term recruiters straight away. They tend to be more salesy, pushier and come from a negative frame of mind (“you have to move, this is your only chance”). These are the people who are looking for the quick win. Now this is not a bad thing necessarily but it means they will try and rush a move at a quicker rate than you are comfortable with. Compare this to a long-term recruiter who takes the time to find out what you want, understands not only your drivers but your business and does not try to sell every opportunity going (tip: if they send you a huge list of firms then they are not thinking long term). Obviously your circumstance dictates the type of recruiter you want. Personally, I rarely work with partners looking to make a quick move unless they can convince me they are not being kicked out of their firm (I only work with those perceived to be leaders in their space and leave the others to my competitors). However, if you are willing to wait before moving and will do so for an opportunity which ticks all of your boxes then my advice is to work with an individual who matches this philosophy. It may take longer for him to make a commission but you can have faith he has your interests at heart.
  1. Does he work for GSL Partners? Yes? Use them.


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