This month, we interviewed RedLaw’s very own Jon Kennedy about life as a Legal Recruiter. Jon has over 10 years experience in helping lawyers secure new roles.
Jon talks about the changing face of recruitment and also provides some helpful advice on how a lawyer can best advance in their careers
1. Have you always worked in the legal sector throughout your recruitment career?
Yes, I have always focused on recruiting qualified lawyers into private practice law firms. When I started out back in 2006, I spent the first two years concentrating on regional practices of various sizes throughout the whole of the South East of England. From our base in central London, my team covered a large geographical area from Kent’s South East coast through to the North West of Oxfordshire. Whilst most of the lawyers I assist these days are looking to join a large City firm, or a US law firm in London, or a West End firm, occasionally I help out solicitors seeking to move out to a regional firm, so it is great to have a sound appreciation of that part of the market and the main players too.
2. How has legal recruitment changed over the years?
Major reforms and economic events have had a huge impact on the legal industry and recruitment into this sector. Firms reliant on legal aid work had to refocus their business accordingly in the mid-2000’s leading to a steep decline in demand for lawyers specialising in areas such as family law. Immediately before the property market crash in 2008, literally hundreds of firms were crying out for more property lawyers, and almost overnight this demand literally disappeared. These sorts of developments presented challenges on each occasion, as much of our time, week in week out, had involved meetings and conversation with candidates and hiring partners in those practice areas. To avoid similar exposure in the future, I have always been careful to get to know a comprehensive range of practice areas and industry sectors, and a similar broad spectrum of firms, so I am well placed to satisfy current and future demand when the market shifts.
3. What are the things you most enjoy about your life as a recruiter?
These days, hiring firms and candidates both expect more from their recruiters. There are a great many firms and lawyers in the UK legal market, and one size does not fit all. I take a great deal of pride in knowing which distinguishing features make each firm and opportunity unique, and hence understanding which would roles would be the perfect match for individual candidates. It is unrealistic to expect a busy lawyer to have in-depth knowledge of each of the law firms that could actually turn out to be the best fit for them, so it is satisfying to be able to use my accumulated familiarity and insights to present an opportunity that proves to be the perfect move.
4. Is there one experience with a candidate you have placed which stands out from your career?
It is always a great pleasure to help someone achieve their dream move, and to find the hiring partner their perfect candidate. The experiences that stand out are those that involved the greatest challenges and investment of time and creativity of approach. For example, assisting senior associates with their first move as a partner, or helping a valued law firm client with a hire in a problematic overseas jurisdiction that would only suit the most resilient of candidates, or advising lawyers how to get back onto the ladder after a career break.
5. What would be your one piece of advice to a lawyer wanting to advance in his or her career?
Go the extra mile at every available opportunity in the context of business development. As your career progresses, and your salary grows, your value to a prospective employer is increasingly tied to your client relationships and your ability to originate work from clients. If you get into the habit of consistently devoting as much time as possible to effect profile raising activities, you will protect yourself from unforeseen events that force you to move (insolvency, redundancy and so forth), and you will put yourself in the driving seat if you start to outgrow your firm or become undervalued. Very good firms always want to speak with lawyers who pro-actively develop their relationships with clients.