Question & Answer
My BigLaw Crush
July 10, 2012
I was hoping you could provide some advice... I am a mid-level litigator at a BigLaw firm with excellent credentials. I recently touched base with a top-notch firm that I am interested in lateraling to. (They did not have a position open; I sent my application simply because I am interested in working at that firm.) They agreed my credentials were excellent but said they were 'unable to offer me an interview'. The firm didn't specify why, but I assume it was because there were no open positions.
Do you have any advice about what to do from here - as I still really want to work at that firm and it seems it may simply be a case of waiting until a position is open. I'm not interested in moving to just any other BigLaw firm, so that's why I sent an application to this firm specifically. Any advice you have would be great.
This is a tough question for me because I am only able to take some guesses at what happened. But based on the number of years of experience I have, I suppose my guesses are probably fairly close to reality.
First of all, and as I always have to say in situations such as this, you have not given me enough information to really zero in on specifics. So again, let me emphasize that I am making some assumptions and guesses here.
I am guessing that you sent your resume blind into this desirable BigLaw firm. By blind I mean that you just mailed it in with a cover letter without any specific contact or referral and without any specific position identified. Therefore I suspect your letter went directly to the recruiting department. This firm's recruiting department was professional enough to send you a letter advising you that although your credentials were excellent, they were not interested in meeting with you. In other words, thanks but no thanks. No explanation, just no interviews available.
Sending a resume into a firm without a specific person identified as the recipient is risky business. Can you imagine how many unsolicited resumes are received by this firm every day, especially in this tough job market? The recruiting departments are inundated with these resumes and generally don't even respond to them. I can understand why you would be interested in interviewing with this particular firm - they are extremely kind and professional to have taken the time to send you a letter expressing their non-interest.
However, without any specific contact and just sending in your resume as an unsolicited piece of paper without it being attached to any specific opening, the end result is not surprising.
There are several things you can now do. You can go visit a recruiter that you know - and trust - and ask him/her if she has any contacts at this firm other than someone in the recruiting department. Specifically, s/he should have a contact such as the head of the litigation department (since you are a litigator) or the hiring partner or the firm. If this headhunter does really and truly have a relationship with one of these two people - or even better, with both of them - allow him or her to contact them on your behalf to let them know that you are not on the job market, that you are gainfully employed at your current firm but that you interested in speaking with them because you are interested in their firm (and their firm only). S/he should, of course, discuss your excellent credentials, top law school and your good-looking resume.
Your other option is to go on the firm's website and seek out these same two people and contact them yourself. Unfortunately, without any prior relationship with either of these two people, the question is, do you place a phone call to them? If so, are they going to actually take your call and if you get their voice mail, would they actually ever return a voice mail message…doubtful. If you send an email or a letter, my guess is that it will go directly down to the recruiting department and from there either into a circular file and perhaps you will receive another form letter telling you that you have excellent credentials but there are no openings for you at the firm.
I think your best bet is to find a person who has the right contacts at the firm to make the call for you. I don't see how you can represent yourself when you don't know the partners there yourself. But the key here is to make sure that the recruiter you choose actually does have a relationship directly with the partner(s) and not with the recruiting department at the firm. You might have to meet with a number of different search firms to find the right person. Just make sure that you do not leave your resume or give permission to send your resume out unless you know that this is the recruiter you want to call the firm on your behalf.
By the way, even going directly to the source - or going to the source through a recruiter - is not going to guarantee that you will be able to secure an interview. Hiring is down at the law firms right now and even with the best of candidates, there might be a hiring freeze at this firm. However, at least with this more aggressive approach, hopefully you will be able to find out what is really going on. Best wishes!
Ann M. Israel