As refugees from private practice, we hold a special place in our hearts for law firms. We still believe that private practice is the place where good junior lawyers go to become great lawyers and experienced lawyers achieve tremendous personal satisfaction.
Our positive attitude toward private practice has helped us successfully complete thousands of contingent and retained searches for local, national, and international law firms of all sizes and practice specialties. Each law firm we serve, regardless of size, and regardless of whether it is a one-time contingent client or a long-term retainer client, is treated with the highest degree of professionalism and respect.
In practice this means that we never try to apply one cookie cutter process to every law firm client. Some law firms prefer to coordinate their lateral recruiting through a nonlawyer on staff, through a recruiting committee or hiring partner, or through the partners or shareholders who oversee the practice area under consideration. We may contact someone in a specific department or practice group to check on firm hiring needs when we are working with an individual who is an outstanding candidate, or we may provide someone a “first pass” on an outstanding candidate looking to make a move. We work with whatever hiring process has been created internally or help develop an ad hoc process when necessary to facilitate hiring.
View our fees and guarantees for contingent law firm searches.
We are pleased to accommodate clients who prefer to utilize our services on a contingent fee basis. There are times, however, when we can best meet a client’s needs on a retained basis. The two most common circumstances under which we perform work for our client in this manner are described below.
Some law firms retain us to help them identify and recruit individuals with very specific, closely defined experiences and capabilities. Often, these highly specific searches are also time sensitive -- a law firm needs a needle in a haystack, and needed it yesterday. Being on retainer means that we prioritize our retainer client's needs over our other workload. This type of search begins with individuals whose practices we already know. From there we conduct extensive marketplace research utilizing national and international databases, personal contacts, and every recruiter’s best friend, the telephone. Although a client’s own geographic area is often the best place to begin a search (to avoid relocation expenses), there are no geographic boundaries to our abilities; we frequently conduct such searches on a national or global level.
When possible, we interview every potential candidate and forward on to our clients only those who best meet the specifics of the search. Additionally, we identify both the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and disclose any complications that may arise during the interview and negotiation process, including compensation and relocation issues. We strive to eliminate any “11th hour” surprises.
In a retained search of this nature our fees are negotiated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the size of the client, the complexity of the search, and the amount of time we expect to devote to the search in lieu of other recruiting projects.
There is a broader concept of retainer that appeals to some clients. This more open-ended format allows clients to utilize our services for the selection and recruiting of several attorneys over an extended period of time, while meeting three primary goals:
In this type of search, we work with a client to focus their objectives and create, through mutual effort, a written description of ideal candidates, focusing on criteria such as education, substantive expertise, and, at the senior level, nature and portability of clients.
We often ask for a “wish list” of people whom a client would like us to pursue on their behalf. Rather than hiring a friend or colleague who may or may not have the practice that he or she is believed to have, who may or may not have undisclosed personal issues, we can reject someone otherwise difficult to refuse once he or she is considered a candidate. We assess the strengths and weaknesses of our candidates, help identify who at the firm needs to be in meetings and the type of meetings that position the firm for a successful hire. We also address any issues that may come up that are best handled by a third party who can “save face” for the firm or individual candidate. We also help negotiate compensation and field “deal breakers,” provide reference checks and perform due diligence. Often we will screen candidates brought to the firm by its partners or shareholders. Our third party status helps the firm reject a candidate who may not be all the firm wants him or her to be.
Our fee for this broader, more open-ended retainer usually includes a monthly or quarterly retainer payment plus either a flat or percentage-based fee per attorney placed, with negotiated caps where a substantial group or firm acquisition would be prohibitively expensive for the client.
Regardless of whether we’re working on a contingent fee or retainer basis, we never allow a fee to stand in the way of building a successful relationship. While we enjoy being compensated for our efforts, as do our clients, we will work creatively with our clients to help them minimize the impact of our fees. Our task is to help law firms grow and succeed, and we realize that every firm has unique needs and capabilities.
Sometimes our law firm clients choose to add more than one or two attorneys; sometimes they choose to add substantial numbers of attorneys, or even merge up (with a larger firm) or down (by acquiring a smaller firm). Over the last decade, a growing portion of our practice has involved working with firms looking for substantial change. To this end we have been retained by law firms looking to expand upward to better serve a maturing client base, firms unraveling at the seams, and, more recently, large multi-city firms looking to grow even larger. In such situations, we are engaged at any of a number of points in the process including finding the opportunity, facilitating meetings and information exchange, due diligence, negotiation and post-merger problem solving.
One thing we don’t do is represent both sides of a potential merger. We view this as a conflict of interest. It may sound obvious, but our point of view is not universally shared by other recruiting firms and law consultants.
For a brief treatment of some of the issues facing law firms that are considering a merger or an acquisition, click here for the outline of Howard's speech on the subject at a recent Mergers and Acquisitions conference in New York.