When I started thinking about writing a blog, I really struggled to think of topics to write about. I felt it would be similar to the old Steve Martin stand-up routine where he tells a packed SF Amphitheater a joke only for plumbers (an old but funny bit; just trust me or listen here).
Head-hunting (aka recruiting) at the law firm partner level is a niche area of business.
There are only so many partners that move each year, it being a monumental career decision that needs to fit at the right time with a law firm’s growth/hiring strategy. But I have realized there are many topics that come up in my day-to-day conversations with lawyers and firms that have broad appeal.
I want to start by describing the business I am in, even though I am not always sure what that is. Because I help lawyers and firms, I’ll first take a broad swipe at what they do. I see the lawyers and law firms I work with all growing their businesses in ways that require highly skilled relationship management. So, to me, they are in the people business.
I like to think that I’m in the happiness business.
Many of the partners I work with are successful, yet restless, looking for a way to improve their work-lives and looking for help to make their practices more connective, and ultimately more lucrative.
Similarly, my law firm clients are looking to fill a need, searching for just the right high-level lawyers to help expand a practice area or drive the firm in a new direction (I don’t really know what makes Managing Partners truly happy and doubt they do either, but I’ll go with successful strategic growth as their ode to joy….).
In each of these scenarios, I act as a sounding board. Talking through goals and options, discussing pros and cons, and putting in significant time as a door opener and career resource in the hope they will seriously consider a change.
For me, it’s often the case that “today” isn’t the right time for a change (or “that” change). I’ll admit I first wondered whether commission-based income made sense for me, or less generously, what fool would sign up for this job!? I was a trained lawyer, with multiple degrees, and yet suddenly felt there was a price on my back that said: “FREE.99” (I am borrowing this slang from my son at college who shows real commitment to getting this “price” for food, booze, streaming services, etc.…). But once I realized these critical decisions are so much bigger than me, and that all careers are long, including mine, I knew the long game is what needed to be played. This is how I provide real value.
This long-game approach is one I’m continually improving and is informed by decades of experience. Head-hunting is my second career. In my first “tour” as a lawyer, I was named a top 20 under 40 in the LA Daily Journal.
Next, I started Major Lindsey & Africa’s partner recruiting practice in Los Angeles in 2003. More recently I decided to strike out in a boutique firm I started with like-minded partners. The journey from novice to expert has been tough but rewarding. To comply with Malcolm Gladwell’s “expert” requirements (see his book Outliers) I have put in more than 30,000 hours handling lateral partner deals (and non-deals).
I have a broad understanding of the market and how firms and experienced lawyers make pivotal career decisions within it.
In this blog space, I will share my successes, my challenges, and what I’ve learned about career management, relationship building, business development, and related topics. (I include the word challenges because, lawyers…)
My hope is that this way of sharing my thoughts will be a two-way street. I invite you to join me in this endeavor, responding to my posts and sharing your own perspectives. I expect conversations to, at a minimum, be fun, if not also helpful and thought-provoking.