How did you enter legal recruiting?
I started recruiting law students right out of law school. As a law student, I worked in the Admissions Office of Wayne State University Law School as a recruitment coordinator and student assistant. I enjoyed the position so much, that upon graduation I accepted the role of Associate Director of Recruitment and was later promoted to Director of Admissions. This afforded me the opportunity to travel the country, meet with prospective students, and counsel them on how a law degree could help them achieve their career goals. After five years at Wayne State, I sought a more rewarding challenge and assumed the role of Associate Director of Admissions at Columbia Law School, where I could continue to recruit and advise elite law students. I found that I greatly enjoyed the career advisor aspect of my job, where not only was I meeting with students to discuss career aspirations, but I was also regularly interacting with alumni, learning about their firms and professions. It seemed only fitting that after 6 years in academia I should take my recruiting and career advising skills to the next level; to work with exceptional attorneys and the most prestigious legal employers at Empire Search.
What have you seen change the most in the legal hiring market since you began recruiting?
I began my professional legal recruiting career in December of 2019, just a few months before the global Covid-19 pandemic. Up until March 2020, the market was robust, with ample opportunities on both the law firm and in-house sides. With the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns came a dramatic slow down in legal hiring. Firms and businesses took time to survey the economy, take steps to preserve their workforces, and implement plans to shore up revenue. As firms and businesses adjusted to life in a pandemic, certain practice areas boomed, while others saw significant cutbacks. Restructuring, capital markets, and finance practices became busier than ever, while M&A activity nearly evaporated during the summer months. Slowly firms at the top resumed their hiring, with significant activity across practice areas following Labor Day. In-house departments within a range of businesses have started to follow suit. Life in the pandemic has made working from home the norm for Big Law and businesses, giving attorneys greater flexibility to interview from home using video conferencing. This flexibility in scheduling, coupled with the rebound of the top practices, has created a more active and accessible legal hiring market. It truly is a time for attorneys to explore their options.
What changes in the legal hiring market do you anticipate?
I think the pandemic is going to have a lasting effect on the legal hiring market. We have already seen an uptick in the number of attorneys looking to relocate to markets outside of New York, LA, and Chicago. Even when firms do reopen their offices, I believe there will continue to be greater flexibility with face time and options to work from home. I think we will see more people living outside their home office’s city and potentially in other states. Video conferencing is also likely here to stay. Firms will likely continue to hold initial interviews via Zoom and the like. As the economy rebounds and reopens following the distribution of vaccines, I anticipate more in-house opportunities coming to market. Practice areas like M&A will also continue to get busier and expand. We are ready to assist attorneys in taking advantage of the significant opportunity the legal market in 2021 provides.
What advice do you most consistently provide to attorneys as they navigate their career paths?
Do your homework and do not be afraid to ask for help. Our goal as professional recruiters is to help attorneys acquire as much information as they can to facilitate informed objective decisions about their career trajectory. Use us as a tool for career planning and insight into the top practices and businesses throughout the country. Don’t be afraid to take meetings to learn more about firms and in-house roles. This is the only way you can make knowledgeable decisions as to what is best for your practice and growth. A proper recruiter will help you navigate this process while maintaining confidences and without burning bridges.
What do you enjoy most about legal recruiting?
Simply put, I am a people person. From recruiting law students to attorneys, I enjoy meeting people from all backgrounds, playing an integral role in the development and attainment of their career goals. I view myself as an agent for the attorneys that I work with, getting just as excited as they do when they learn about a new invitation to interview or extension of an offer. Searching for a new role, be it a lateral move, move in-house, or relocation, can seem like a daunting process. I take pride in being that invaluable resource which makes the process seamless and rewarding.
What areas of legal recruiting are you focused on?
I represent associates and counsel with respect to law firm and in-house opportunities nationwide, but with an emphasis on New York. These attorneys come from all practice areas, with the main corporate practice areas being the most common. This includes mergers and acquisitions, finance, capital markets, investment management, and restructuring. I have also done a significant amount of work within employee benefits and executive compensation.
What makes Empire Search unique in the legal recruiting space?
We value building long-term relationships with the attorneys that we work with, serving as their agent, partner, and advisor through not only their search process, but throughout their legal career. Our reputation of excellence has enabled us to not only partner with the most elite law firms in the world, but also manage the most extensive in-house portfolio of any recruiting firm out there. This multifaceted and sophisticated practice gives our attorneys unparalleled insight and access to the best law jobs the market has to offer.
Josh Davis is a Managing Director at Empire Search Partners in New York. To learn more about Empire Search’s law firm and in-house legal recruiting, visit our Legal Recruiting Services page.