Whether you’re using just one, or multiple, recruiters in your job search, you’re the one in charge. Search consultants can enhance and facilitate your search, but each recruiter only knows what he or she is doing; you know the whole picture. It’s up to you to keep all the moving parts on track and to ensure there are no duplicate efforts.
Using multiple recruiters
When moving to another law firm
Most recruiters don’t insist on exclusivity but it makes sense to have a primary recruiter, especially if you’re looking to lateral to a law firm. Large law firms usually list their associate openings on their websites, which then are picked up by commercial databases and/or they give the search assignments to many search firms on a non-exclusive basis. It’s “open season” on those openings, with the placement going to the recruiter who first submits the best candidate. Those are the “usual suspects” and most search firms have those searches.
Recruiters with long experience and excellent reputations in their market segment will have cultivated special relationships with a variety of other prospective employers, as well, especially with boutique, specialty, spin-off, and other smaller firms. Those law firms will give their search assignments only to one or a short list of preferred providers.
To keep traffic under control when looking to move to another law firm, choose one—or at most a very few—recruiters to work with, based on their experience and your relationship with them.
When moving in-house
If looking to move in-house or to a non-profit, it’s best to contact a few reputable recruiters who are experienced in your preferred geographic area and/or industry sector. Those searches usually are assigned to recruiters on an exclusive basis, which means that each search firm will have a different selection of opportunities at any given time. Therefore, you may decide to work with more than one search firm to maximize your chances of finding the right job. But, again, be selective in your choice of recruiters.
Choose reputable recruiters
Make sure that the recruiters you choose are playing by the rules, especially if you’re using more than one. You don’t want any conflicts or duplicate efforts. A threshold question is whether the search firm is a member of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC). NALSC is the only trade organization for outside legal recruiters in the U.S. Among other things, NALSC provides educational opportunities, access to a nationwide network of reputable legal recruiting firms and, most importantly, a Code of Ethics® to which member firms agree to adhere. Law firms often include a term in their search firm fee agreements that the recruiters agree to follow the NALSC Code of Ethics®.
Of course there are reputable recruiters who are not members of NALSC but, if you choose to use one, at a minimum, make sure that the recruiter adheres to the NALSC Code of Ethics®. The crucial difference, however, is that if a non-member firm violates the Code of Ethics®, there is no recourse.
A searchable directory of NALSC member recruiting firms and the Code of Ethics® can be found at www.nalsc.org.
Protect your resume
NEVER give anyone carte blanche with your resume!
If working with more than one legal recruiter, you must make sure they don’t step on each other’s toes. To prevent any double submissions, keep careful records (see discussion below) and insist that no one send your resume to any prospective employer or other recruiter without your specific, prior approval.
You also don’t want your resume going someplace where you worked previously, would have a conflict of interest, are concerned about heightened threats to your confidentiality (e.g. your supervising partner’s spouse or significant other is there) or know you don’t want to work there for some reason.
Avoid duplicate submissions
A legal recruiter cannot present you to a prospective employer that you already contacted either directly, or indirectly, in the recent past. A resume submitted for a position has a “shelf life” of six to 12 months depending upon that law firm’s contract with search firms. That means that if an employer received a job inquiry about you from any source within the past six months, it’s still “live,” and any other inquiries will be rejected as duplicative. If the inquiry is more than a year old, it usually is considered dead, and that employer can be contacted again. Within six to 12 months, it’s a gray area, and it depends upon the practices of that particular employer.
Recruiters don’t want to waste their or their clients’ time with duplicate efforts. Rather than increasing your chances of procuring an interview with a prospective employer by authorizing more than one contact, you’ll look clueless, desperate, or as if you don’t have control over your search. Rather than risk a fee dispute, some prospective employers will simply decline to pursue a candidate who came in through several sources instead of trying to figure out which is the legitimate representative.
Respect proprietary information
Just as you expect recruiters to respect your confidentiality, if you choose to work with more than one legal search consultant, don’t share one’s client list with the other. If one suggests a prospective employer that you previously contacted on your own or through any other source, or who you authorized another recruiter to contact, simply state that there has been prior contact. Recruiters work hard to nurture their client relationships, and don’t want them disclosed to their competition.
Pro Tip: Keeping track
If you’re engaged in an active job search, it’s likely that you’ll be exploring your own sources and may also be working with one or more recruiters. Therefore, it’s important that you keep a list of prospective employers that have already been contacted through ANY source. Create a spreadsheet tracking all prospective employers that are contacted, who reached out to them on your behalf (even if it was you), when that contact was made, to whom, the response, and when that response was received. As your search continues, keep that list updated. Save it on your personal computer at home, not on your employer’s system.