In a highly competitive legal market, law firms seek to fill open positions with the best candidates. To save time in the search process, some firms use a legal recruiter. Legal recruiters, also called legal “headhunters,” find individuals with the qualifications and experience needed to truly fulfill the job requirements. Keep reading to learn more about a legal recruiter.
What Does a Legal Recruiter Do?
In order to bring only highly qualified individuals on-board, some law firms use legal recruiters. These headhunters map out the legal market and use social networking sites, search directories, and legal press to find potential candidates.
They also work closely with firm management and human resource personnel to familiarize themselves with the available positions in the firm. This allows them to communicate with each candidate about the responsibilities and expectations associated with the position.
Other legal recruiting duties include:
- Keeping in touch with law firms to stay up-to-date on positions as they become available
- Working with firm personnel to schedule interviews and field questions about the candidates
- Meeting with candidates who have requested help with the job search
- Screening applicant rigorously to determine which ones they will work with
- Interviewing applicants that make it through the screening process
Typically, recruiters gather information about the candidates before the interviews take place. Interviewing however, helps the recruiter and candidate connect on a more personal level. Sometimes, recruiters must also cold call to find potential candidates to fill open positions.
Once they have a potential match, the recruiter helps prepare the candidate for the interview with the employer. They also debrief them afterwards to answer questions and provide support. If the company offers the position, the recruiter helps the candidate negotiate the terms of employment.
Professional Requirements to Become a Legal Recruiter
Earning a bachelor’s degree (B.S.) is the minimum requirement to become a legal recruiter. This undergraduate program consists of four years of full-time study. The occupation does not require a particular major, but students benefit from taking courses in legal studies and business. Aspiring recruiters should also take courses that develop critical thinking and analytical skills. Students can participate in internships and clerkships while in school to gain experience in the field.
Though the occupation only requires a bachelor’s degree, many employers give preference to candidates with a Juris Doctorate (J.D.). Students that plan on attending law school will take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) before completing their undergraduate program. This multiple-choice exam assesses the student’s reading comprehension and reasoning skills. Law schools use the score of the LSAT as a major factor when making admission decisions.
Law school entails three years of full-time study and the first year consists of basic law courses. Students spend the second and third year shaping their own studies. For instance, aspiring legal recruiters concentrate on employment laws. After earning a law degree, graduates can opt to take the bar exam and become a member of their state bar.
Additional Education and Experience
After earning a J.D., individuals can work towards their Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree. While not a requirement for a recruiting position, it can help advance one’s career.
Additional Licensing Requirements
While there is not a certification that specifically applies to recruiting, some recruiters choose to earn a human resource professional certification. This certification covers principles related to hiring and recruitment. To maintain the certification, professionals must complete a minimum number of continuing education courses.
Where Can You Work as a Legal Recruiter
Where you work as a legal recruiter depends on available jobs and your personal preference. Some choose to work independently as freelance recruiters, while others join recruitment companies or firms.
Freelance recruiters enjoy more flexibility with the hours they work, the clients they choose to take on, and the rates they charge. However, unlike paid employees, they do not receive a steady paycheck or company-paid benefits. Company employees have less control over their day-to-day work environment, as they work at the direction of their employer.
Recruiters spend most of their time in an office though they may travel to meet clients or attend recruitment events. Generally, they work full-time during regular business hours.
How do Legal Recruiters Get Paid
Typically, legal recruiters get paid on a retained, contingency, or contained basis. When working on a retained basis, the recruiter charges the employer upfront. With this billing method, the company works with the recruiter or recruiting firm exclusively. Retained recruiters work very closely with the clients and can charge up to 50% of the candidate’s starting annual salary.
Contingency recruiters receive their pay after they find the right candidate for the job. They charge a percentage of the candidate’s salary, which is around 25% on average. Working on a contingency basis makes the job more competitive, as recruiters often compete with the company’s HR department.
Contained recruiters use a billing method that is a hybrid of the two mentioned above. They receive a partial payment up front and the rest after finding the right candidate for the job.
Legal Recruiter Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies recruiters under the human resource specialist category. According to the BLS, the annual median salary for all human resource specialists was $60,350 ($29.01/hr) as of 2017. However, since most legal recruiters hold a law degree, they tend to earn more than recruiters in other fields.
The salary range can vary widely depending on many factors such as geographical location, amount of experience, and educational background. Whether the recruiter works independently or for a recruiting firm also plays a role in how much they earn.
Employment Outlook for Legal Recruiters
The BLS expects the employment rate for human resource specialists, including legal recruiters to increase by 7% by 2026. This is the average growth rate for all U.S. occupations. As more students enter the legal field than jobs become available, the job market will remain competitive.
How to Find a Job as a Legal Recruiter
The most important part of finding the right legal recruiter job involves networking. Start by connecting with friends, family, classmates, and business associates and asking for referrals. You can also join professional or trade organizations to find people that share the same professional interests. Oftentimes, you will gain access to membership lists to discover new contacts.
Join online networking sites or attend professional events and trade meetings to encounter new people to grow your network. Volunteering your time to an organization in the industry can help you find industry contacts as well. When done correctly, networking will help you obtain leads, referrals, and support.
Along with networking, reach out to law firms in your area and check employment search websites. Be persistent and not afraid to follow up after initially contacting a potential employer.
Although some employers hire legal recruiters without experience, most prefer at least two years of recruiting experience. Many recruiters start out in human resource positions in small companies before advancing in their career.
|Bachelor’s (law degree preferred by some employers)
|Employment law or human resources
|Interpersonal, detail-oriented, outgoing, written communication, verbal communication, self-motivated
|Number of Jobs (2016)
|7% growth rate (average growth rate)
|Median Salary (2017)
|On the Job Training
|Moderate term of on-the-job training
|Top earners in the field are generally employed by large recruiting firms
(*Source: the BLS)