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Junior Associates Stay Away From Professional Legal Recruiters September 2, 2009

Posted by admin in : Critique, Tales , trackback

people1Legal recruiters are job prospect destroyers for junior associates.  For someone like me who has 1 year and 7 months of legal experience (and a measly 5 months – thanks again Evil Law Firm [ELF]– if you count only post law school graduation experience), legal recruiters add next to no value to the job seeking process, in fact they may take value away. The true calling for a headhunter and where their real value is, is in shopping high profile, well experienced candidates around confidentially. In good economic times this is how general counsels are typically found, and how partners or senior associates make lateral moves from boutiques to ELFs or ELFs to boutiques discretely. In other words there is an actual need for them. When placement of junior associates is considered however, this need ceases to exist.

Unfortunately today, it is impossible on any career website such as,, or to scroll 3 millimeters down a page of without seeing: Daybreak legal, Davidcarie, Greenkey Legal, Yorkson legal, Topaz Attorney Search, BCG Attorney Search, Hiretrends, Jurisearch, Wise Counsel or the like. I am not kidding when I say it is not possible to find an actual legitimate position on the job boards without running into recruiting firm trolls who all post the same position dozens of times over.  If you don’t believe me go to and type in “attorney” and choose NY then count how many positions are posted by actual firms and how many are posted by the agencies I listed above. The ratio is about 1:20 and sometimes not even that good. The worst part about it, is that the recruiter postings are usually all for the same job, it’s just that each separate recruiting firm is trying to fill it and obtain the commission.

If  a firm advertises directly on their website that there is a position—what happens next is each of these recruiting firms (who stand to make commissions of 15%-20% of the candidate’s first year salary) will craft their own job spec based on the original firm’s description (keeping it anonymous of course) and then proceed to flood all the various job boards, what results are multiple iterations of the same exact position for unsuspecting job seekers to stumble upon over and over again.

I made the mistake of using one of these agencies to apply for a litigation position I found on a job board. Not knowing any better I found a search firm that was advertising for a “Junior Litigation Associate,” little did I know the position was also posted directly on the actual law firm’s website for all the world to see. The recruiter still submitted me; needless to say I didn’t get the job.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that any hiring partner in their right mind is not going to pay a $24,000-$32,000 premium to hire a junior associate with 5 months experience who is currently unemployed for a position that was nationally advertised right on the law firm’s own website! Especially, when that hiring partner has a stack of resumes piled up to the ceiling of similarly credentialed junior lawyers that applied directly to the position without a recruiter. Herein lies the problem with using recruiters for junior positions (not to mention doing this during a recession).

I have found that if you want to avoid recruiters (and as I said, if you are as junior as I am, you want to avoid recruiters like The Plague) you are much better off using search services that provide posts directly from the source (i.e.,,

When I first started my job searching,  I must have applied to a position listed with recruiters as “NY Junior Litigation Associate” about 100 times thinking that it was with 100 different firms. To my surprise 99% of the time each post led me back to either Akin Gump or Kasowitz Benson—two firms that I had already previously made the mistake of applying to through a recruiter (see my Akin Gump post for further details on how that went).

My advice now (6 months on the job prowl has now made me somewhat of an expert on recruiters) is if you find job posts that interest you and are linked to a recruiting firm, do yourself a favor and put your resourcefulness hat on and start googling away. You are much, much, much better off finding the direct post in any way you can before submitting through a recruiter. This way you save the firm money if they should choose you and therefore you make yourself instantly more attractive for the position. In fact about %15-%20 more attractive.

Occasionally, a recruiter will approach me with an exclusive private listing they have (or at least so they say), which means they were hired or commissioned directly by the company to fill the position and therefor it will not be advertised anywhere else. In these cases I usually bite the bullet and apply through the recruiter, but in all other situations I try my best to resist, despite constant pressuring.

It’s my opinion that in today’s legal market you can not throw a stick down any street in NYC without hitting an unemployed ivy leaguer with a law degree (don’t actually do this because once said lawyer is hit you will open yourself up to a negligence claim sounding in assault). Since we aren’t that hard to find why would a firm ever pay a recruiter to find what is likely standing outside their Park Ave. window begging for a job (possibly with a squeegee and bucket or cardboard sign in hand)?

  • TB

    Check them out. They are good.

  • Ted Hartman

    My experience with legal recruiters is that they like to pump you up because at some poin in the future you may, or may not, be valuable to the legal recruiter. But certainly in our position now we are not valuable.

  • eric3l

    I see all three sites joblesslawyer recommended are paid sites. Do you think it's worth the money to register as a 3L searching for a job?

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