JD Profiles: Amanda Ellis, Author, Attorney Recruiter/Search Consultant

In this new series, we are profiling legal professionals and J.D.s and asking them the hard questions that don’t always get answered in law school. For example, how did they find their job? What do they do on a day-to-day basis? And, was law school a worthwhile investment?

Of course, for this series, I had to interview one of my own mentors, Amanda Ellis, Author, Attorney Recruiter/Search Consultant, and Co-Founder of #LawJobChat (our joint project!). Amanda began her career as a bankruptcy attorney where she learned the benefits of waking up at 4:30 am to start work. She transitioned to a career at a large search firm where she found her niche – networking and recruiting. She decided to go off on her own. For the past two years, she’s continued her recruiting business and wrote a book entitled, The 6Ps of the BIG 3 for Job-Seeking JDs: 60+ Ways to Get Hired Using Social Networking. She now speaks at law firms and law schools on legal career topics.

RecruiterEsq: Hi Amanda! Thanks for speaking with us. What are the 6Ps of the Big 3?

The 6Ps are the components required to use the Big 3 social networking sites successfully in your job search (or in business development):  Purpose, Profile, Privacy, Performance, Practice and Protocol.

How did you decide to write this book?

When I started my own recruiting firm, I started writing a monthly e-newsletter.  I frequently wrote about using social networking in your job search.  An increasing number of law schools began to read my newsletter and some asked me to speak at their schools.  The more I spoke, the more I realized how many people were interested in this subject.  And, there was no guide or resource to teach law students how to use the sites.  I decided I had to write a book.

I’m glad you did! I’m so proud of you. Who do you think can benefit from this book?

While the examples in the book are from law students and lawyers using the sites, the book is helpful for anyone searching for a job or looking to develop business.  I’ve even had friends share the book with their grandparents who wanted to learn how to use Facebook.

That’s funny! You self-published the book. What did you learn from that experience?

Well, I can’t say that I would attempt to self-publish another book again while running a recruiting business.

Yeah, I have to admit, I didn’t envy you although I was impressed with your pursuit. What is the most common question you hear from law students across the country as you speak about getting hired through social networking?

“There are lawyers on Twitter?!”  I hear this statement after each presentation.  They are surprised that to learn that there is a legal community on Twitter.  The second question I get is, “Is it okay to connect with lawyers even though I’ve never met them?”  I refer them back to the “Purpose” of Twitter (hint: yes, it’s okay – the purpose of Twitter is to connect with people you want to get to know).

Are the tips in your book applicable to law firms that want to hire those JDs? Will it teach firms how to identify and recruit laterals or new lawyers?

Absolutely!  Law firms can take the same steps to attract candidates from their existing networks.  In my book, I discuss several free ways law firms can share job openings on social networking sites, including:

  1. Facebook Note (page. 126). The Facebook Note allows you to use more characters than a status update.  You can also tag friends who may be interested in the position you post in the Note.  And, your friends can share the Note so that it appears on their Facebook pages.
  2. Facebook Marketplace (p. 129). Firms can post job openings in the Facebook classifieds.
  3. Facebook Firm Page (p. 131). Firms can post job openings on their own Facebook page, and the posting can be shared by fans of the page.
  4. LinkedIn Group Job Posting (p. 171). Identify the LinkedIn Groups that will contain candidates you are seeking and post jobs in the relevant Groups.
  5. Facebook or LinkedIn Status Update (p. 174). Firm recruiters and hiring personnel can share job openings in their individual status updates on Facebook and LinkedIn.
  6. Tweet Job Openings (p. 201). Share your job openings on Twitter.

Great advice. How did you get into recruiting? Why did you decide to leave the practice of law?

I never wanted to be a lawyer – I went to law school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  I always pictured myself in a consulting role of some type.  I hated law school but I loved practicing.  I loved practicing because I liked the “business” of practicing law.  I was very fortunate to have a section head who was a top rainmaker and mentored me about the business side.  I began to create a list of career options that would combine business plus law.  Recruiting was one of the options and the one I chose.

What were you like in law school? In which activities did you participate?

Ha!  One could probably look at my law school activities and tell I would eventually land in a creative role.  I was Editor of my law school’s yearbook, the Peregrinus.  I was also active on the Student Bar Association – Editor of The Writ, Secretary, ABA Representative.  I did not participate in traditional activities like moot court – did not interest me.

Did you get your first job through your law firm’s career services office or how did you get your first position?

I obtained a job offer through my law school’s OCI but ultimately turned the offer down to move to Boston (where I had no contacts or ties – but, thought it would be fun to live in a different part of the country).  I gained reciprocity with Boston University and Boston College.  Before moving, I applied for a position one of the schools posted.  I interviewed and received an offer about a month before taking the bar exam.

That’s important to remember that most schools offer reciprocity with their career services, especially if you move to another state or city. In regard to your recruiting business, do you only recruit locally or in specific practice areas?

My focus is (1) all practice areas in Texas and (2) bankruptcy attorneys nationwide.

What is the toughest aspect of being a recruiter?

The roller coaster effect.  As you know, you can go from an emotional high to an emotional low in one day.  Understanding this concept (and how it feels) is perhaps the hardest concept for new recruiters to grasp.

Do you set goals for yourself – like, “I want to connect with this type of person by X date” or “I’ll stay on Twitter for an hour today.”

A great boss once told me to create a “Top 7” list – the top 7 things you hope to accomplish each day.  I have to do this daily to be productive.

Top 7, eh? I think I may try this. What about rejection or people being mean on the phone? How do you handle that?

Honestly, I can probably count on one hand the number of “mean” people I’ve encountered either by phone or email.  I really don’t get many mean replies.  When I do, I may vent internally but my external reply is always polite and kind.

What websites to you visit on a daily basis?

Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Above the Law.

What advice do you have for female business owners who want to start their own company?

Don’t lose focus of your core business.  It’s great to branch out and try new things, but make sure 80% of your time is spent on your core business.

Thank you very much for enlightening our readers on what you do!

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Amanda Ellis is the Owner of Amanda Ellis Legal Search. She is the author of The 6Ps of the BIG 3 for Job-Seeking JDs: 60+ Ways to Get Hired Using Social Networking and a frequent lecturer on these topics at law firms, law schools, and bar associations nationwide. You can find Amanda on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook and hear one of her presentations at Solo Practice University.

Firms Take Recruiting In-House and Other Am Law Job Observations

I love updating the Am Law job listings. You can really see the industry through the eyes of how its recruiting.  I will publish the list in my next post but I’d like to note some brief observations here. (Remember, the list is accessible by members-only whereas this post is public.)

Observation #1Firms Get Smart About If/When to Use Search Firm

Although I don’t note it on the list, many of the firms explicitly state that they are not accepting resumes from search firms for XYZ position. Sometimes it’s a firm-wide decision, sometimes it depends on the position.

Those are just a few examples. Personally, I think this type of information is great.  It helps everyone involved – the firm, the potential laterals, and the search firms.

I left my job at a contingency search firm in the beginning of 2009.  By that time, explicit announcements like these were pretty much non-existent.  This meant that candidates and recruiters didn’t know if a firm was working with outside agencies when filling a position.  Based on my conversations with candidates, they were hesitant to apply on their own if they thought they should be working with a recruiter.  (Perhaps the recruiter had a special relationship, had inside knowledge, or other advantages the recruiter may bring….).  Even stellar candidates – smart, friendly, high achievers, perfect matches – would question whether they could find a position without a recruiter.

On the other hand, as a recruiter, I spent countless hours trying to get in touch with firms about advertised positions only to find out – after plenty of phone tag – that the firm was not using recruiters to fill that position.  Or, worse, I spent countless hours – at the firm’s request – trying to find candidates to fill advertised positions that the firm knew they would be filling internally or through a referral.  Not only did the firm play me, it played all of those stellar candidates who may end up opposing counsel or co-counsel.  I had to tell those candidates, “Hey, it’s not you.  Here’s what happened….”

Recruiting fees are expensive.  However, they’re well-worth the money if a recruiter finds that perfect candidate who would never have applied on their own.  It’s about time that firms used recruiters for their true potential.

Observation #2Observation #1 Applies to Staff Attorney/Contract Attorney Positions as Well

More and more, I see advertised positions for staff attorneys, part-time attorneys, and other non-partner track positions.  (E.g., Staff Attorney, Staff Associate, Contract Attorney(!), Career Associate, Part-Time/Hourly Attorney, Staff Attorney, etc.)  This also makes me really happy.  A lot of these positions – and, therefore, the attorneys who work in these positions – do not get the respect they deserve.  By advertising these positions, the firms show that they’re open to candidates who need/want alternative work schedules.  In addition, they are including these attorneys as employees of the firm.  Regardless of the legal significance, the cultural significance is tremendous.

Observation #3… Those Non-Legal “Legal” Careers

Usually, I limit my list to attorney positions or something similar.  (I’ve been known to throw a few patent agent positions in there.)  I’m not sure if I’m simply looking harder nowadays but I’m seeing firms advertise many “alternative” careers – law firm management careers – that are J.D. preferred.  When one of these positions pops out at me, I’ve included it on the list.

There are a few positions I’d like to highlight:

Open Letter to Law Firm Recruiting Professionals

This is the letter that I am sending to recruiting professionals at Am Law firms.  Please let me know if you have any feedback.  Also, if you know anyone in charge of hiring at Am Law firms, I’d very much appreciate any forwards!

Dear [Name]:

My name is Melissa Sachs.  I am a former attorney and a former legal recruiter.

Earlier this year, I started a website called RecruiterEsq.com.  The site focuses on career information and technology training for legal professionals.

One of my goals for the site is to create a section that advises attorneys on how to apply to Am Law firms directly, without using a recruiter.  As a main feature of this section, my hope is to include Q&As with law firm recruiters in order to motivate candidates who are hesitant about sending their resumes to blind postings.

I’m reaching out to various recruiting contacts at firms all over the globe.  With your permission, I will post your answers along with your contact information.  If you prefer to answer the questions over the phone, I am happy to contact you by phone.  I’m also available to answer any questions that you may have.

For now, the plan is to update these questions on an annual basis in case things change.

Advice for Lateral Candidates Applying to [Firm name - office location] Directly

1.  Where do you post open positions?
2.  What are some best practices for candidates who are contacting you on their own, without using a recruiter?
3.  Should laterals contact you only if there is a posted position?
4.  If a candidate reads the description of a posted position and is uncertain about whether their experience is on point, are you open to phone calls from candidates?
5.  One of the benefits of going through a recruiter is the feedback a recruiter receives through the process.  What type of feedback can a candidate expect when they apply to positions directly?
6.  Is the firm willing to consider flex-time candidates?  Will the position description be explicit about flex-time possibilities?  How would you recommend a candidate to bring up their preference for flex-time?  When should they bring it up during the process?
7.  What types of personalities excel at your office?  What is the environment like?
8.  What is the partnership track for laterals?
9.  Does the firm host any programs to help integrate laterals into firm culture?
10.  How does the firm encourage business development?
11.  Do partners ever apply directly?  Are there any special considerations for lateral partner candidates?

If there is any information that you’d like to add, please feel free to add it here.

Again, if you have any questions about this project or other projects on RecruiterEsq, again, please feel free to give me a call at 215.645.2657.

Best,

Melissa