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Recruiting Anecdotes: Keeping Perspective (or Humor Helps!)

by Chuck Curtis on

All of us in legal recruiting have experienced some less-than-traditional behavior on the recruiting trail over the years. This month on the blog, we take a lighthearted look at some true stories, highlighting that although they may leave scar tissue, perspective and a good sense of humor are key to maintaining sanity!

  1. “Face Down in the Sand”
    Many years ago, at a law firm far, far away, we put together a season-ending dinner on the beach for the firm's attorneys and summer associates. Being located in Southern California, we were able to literally have the event on the beach, catered by an iconic restaurant located steps away. It was a beautiful July evening, the food was very good, and it appeared everyone was having a good time, especially the summers. Except one partner, who up to that point hadn’t taken the time to get to know any of the summers, determined that the summers weren’t appropriately “mixing” with the partners. Rather than pushing himself and other partners to stop talking to each other and subsequently making sure that the summers got the chance to socialize with the partners at the event itself, he decided to write a memo to the firm’s Executive Director titled “Face Down in the Sand,” excoriating the firm’s lead recruiter and the summer committee for wasting the firm’s money on a high-priced failure of an event. Since the summers and the majority of the firm’s attorneys who actually had taken the time to get to know them had a really good time at the event, the complaint didn’t catch fire.

Moral of the Story: Be more selective in which partners you invite to summer events, and laugh rather than cry when a less-than-informed partner puts you in his sights.

  1. "A Step Too Far: The Tale of the Shoe-In Resume"

An Anonymous Director of Recruiting at an Am Law 100 Firm in Los Angeles shared this:
One day, I received a package in the mail. From beneath the tissue paper emerged a brand new men’s shoe. Rolled up inside was a cover letter and a resume. In the letter, the candidate wrote he was trying to ‘get his foot in the door.’ I might still have the letter somewhere. I called the candidate to let him know that while it was a creative way to apply, it would have been more appropriate in a different field but it really wasn’t appropriate in a formal law firm setting.”

Moral of The Story: The better strategy to get a job in BigLaw is to get really good grades and interview well. Also, what happened to the other shoe?

  1. "Titanic Trials: When a BigLaw Cruise Hits Rough Waters"

An Anonymous Director of Recruiting at an Am Law 100 Firm in the Bay Area shared this:
“Never do a boat cruise, because a Summer Associate will get seasick! Just not good. We were on a large boat in the San Francisco Bay, and one of my summers got sick and spent most of the boat ride in the bathroom. Others were pretending they were Jack and Rose, ‘on top of the world’ in the front of the boat before hitting the iceberg.”

Moral of the Story: No bay cruises unless lots of Dramamine is available well in advance. And if you do a cruise, keep your Jack-type summers in steerage so they don’t get access to the Rose-type summers anywhere near the front of the boat!

  1. “Now You See Them, Now You Don’t - Twice!”
    At one of my former firms, we spent a lot of time recruiting a litigation partner to one of our East Coast offices. There was lots of involvement from the firmwide section leader and a variety of other partners. After close to 20 partner meetings, we drafted indicative terms, which the partner accepted. From there, we put together a strategic memo and got the partner approved by the Board. The partner was scheduled to join in 60 days or so, but we never got word that they had resigned from their previous firm. The partner kept pushing the date back and pushing the date back. Ultimately, much to our and the recruiters' chagrin, the partner decided to stay at their current firm. Not typical, but not entirely unusual either. Except 6 months later, the partner gets back to the recruiter, says the decision to stay was a mistake and wonders if we remain interested. We start the machine again with assurances they really mean it this time and make another Board-approved offer, which the candidate accepts. We have a scheduled start date, but as it gets closer, the candidate gets indecisive again, and after 3 months, ultimately stays for a second time.

Moral of the Story: Fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice, shame on us. But in the process of dodging this bullet by hiring this partner, a lot of manpower was burned, and it cost a reputable recruiter her fee not once, but twice.

  1. “It’s Never Over Until It’s Over”
    At another former firm, we recruited a pair of tax partners. As above, we had a ton of involvement from the section leader, they met numerous partners, were Board approved, and accepted our offer. In this case, they in fact did resign from their previous firm. They provided proof of their resignations in the form of an email from their firm's general counsel that they were no longer partners as of a certain date. We had their office contents shipped from their previous firm to the office location where they would be joining. Except even after all of that, they were convinced at the last minute to stay at their current firm!

Moral of The Story: You haven't hired a partner until they actually walk through the door of your firm, even if you're already in possession of their office contents! Anecdotally, and to the surprise of no one, within several years these two partners eventually joined another firm.

I’m sure everyone has their share of war stories. We’d be curious to hear yours! In the meantime, take it all with a grain of salt and always remember it's better to laugh than cry, even if it stings.

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