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Meet the Empire Search Legal Recruiters: Q&A with Caroline Waters
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How did you enter legal recruiting?

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in human environmental science, I knew I wanted to do something where I could work closely with people, which led me into the world of legal recruiting. I began my legal recruiting career over a decade ago when I moved to Washington, DC. It’s something I sort of fell into and have enjoyed so much that I’ve stuck with it all these years. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on the recruiting teams at some of the top global law firms, including Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright, Cooley, and Latham & Watkins. Initially, I focused on law school and entry level associate recruiting, before making lateral attorney recruiting my primary focus. I’ve gained experience at the associate, counsel, and partner levels, managing all facets of the recruiting, hiring, and integration processes.

While I enjoyed the law firm side tremendously, I came to realize that what I enjoyed most about it was not only having the chance to work hand in hand with the attorneys we were recruiting and integrating, but also getting to play an integral role in such an important life event for these individuals—making a career move. Coming to this realization, I decided to take my legal recruiting experience, skillset, and knowledge to the next level and joined the team at Empire Search Partners. I now get to work with attorneys every day, advising and guiding them through their career paths, while continuing to work with my law firm and in-house employer counterparts to help them find the best attorneys to join their organizations.

What have you seen change the most in the legal hiring market since you began recruiting?

We are seeing shifts in the market from the previous unprecedented hiring boom. Despite seeing some layoffs, particularly in the tech space, the market as a whole remains active, including the in-house side, where companies remain reliant on their in-house leaders. Law firms are continuing to invest in their talent and are much better prepared for a market slowdown than they were back in 2008-09. They recognize and appreciate the importance of taking a long-term strategic approach, rather than allowing short-term economic changes dictate their decision making. We’re seeing growth in different geographic locations such as Texas and Florida. With shifts in remote, hybrid, and return-to-office policies, firms are adapting to the “new normals,” but recently firms are acknowledging the benefits of increased in-person activity.

What changes in the legal hiring market do you anticipate?

I anticipate the legal hiring market to remain active, though I recognize that some practice areas will be in higher demand than others due to changes in the economy. Over the remainder of the year, employers will likely focus on more strategic hiring as opposed to being opportunistic, and will put a strong emphasis on retention. With legal employers focused on filling specific needs, now is an important time for attorneys to pay attention to the dynamics of the market in order to stay marketable. It’s our job as legal recruiters to use our knowledge and expertise to help attorneys and their employers navigate this shifting market.

What advice do you most consistently provide to attorneys as they navigate their career paths?

Always continue to keep yourself educated on the market and know what opportunities are available to you. While it may seem counterintuitive to do this while you’re happy and doing well in your current role, this is actually the best time to educate yourself because this is when you’re able to think clearly and objectively and make the best decisions for yourself and your career. Staying educated doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making a career move in that moment or even at all. Rather, it’s arming yourself with helpful information for when and if the time comes. As is the case when making strategic decisions about going to law school or navigating on-campus interviews, it would be negligent to manage your mid- to senior-level career decisions without a strategic mind frame. Experienced legal recruiters can be instrumental resources in this regard, as our aim is to keep attorneys abreast of the market and share with them helpful strategic updates on an ongoing basis.

What do you enjoy most about legal recruiting?

I love playing an integral role in the career development of the attorneys I work with. Everyone’s story is different, and it’s exciting to work with each of our candidates to figure out what their unique professional goals are and the best ways to achieve them. I enjoy finding the synergies that make the best matches between attorneys and their prospective employers.

What areas of legal recruiting are you focused on?

I mostly focus on associate level recruiting on both the in-house and law firm sides of the market. While I work across practice areas, most of my work falls into the corporate, real estate, and executive compensation and employee benefits spaces, working across geographies in the US. Being able to hone in on a few practice areas allows me to gain a deep knowledge in those areas and understand the full landscape of the major practices and attorneys in the field.

What makes Empire Search unique in the legal recruiting space?

Having worked with Empire Search during my law firm days, I always found interacting with our recruiting practice to be so enjoyable. Empire Search always presented strong candidates and really understood what our hiring needs were. Now having joined the team, I understand that this high-quality service is attributed to the founders of Empire Search spending the last twenty years building a superior client base and taking a longer-term approach to candidate recruiting. This long-term relationship-building approach is what we still strive for every day and is what differentiates us from our competitors.

 

Caroline Waters is a Managing Director at Empire Search Partners in Washington, D.C. Caroline can be reached at cwaters@empiresearch.com. To learn more about Empire Search’s law firm and in-house legal recruiting services, visit our Legal Recruiting Services page.