Ex-City lawyer working for niche recruitment consultancy
Karen Glass trained at Cameron McKenna and left law at about 2yrs PQE to join Hudson Legal, a major international agency with a corporate focus. She has since moved to a smaller consultancy called Pure Recruitment, which specialises in placing senior level legal, tax and finance professionals into commerce & industry and private practice. She is very happy with her career change and described it as the best decision she ever made. We asked her what her job involves, why she chose to do it and why she likes it so much.
mtl: Hi Karen, please can you run us through your legal career.
Karen: I did law at Nottingham and followed the usual conveyor belt to qualification. I loved my training contract at Cameron McKenna and qualified into the Projects group in March 2005. About six months later I began to question my career choice as I was starting to struggle with the lack of people contact and wasn’t interested enough in the corporate deals to consider doing it in the long-term.
I began to think about other options and after 15 months I moved to Speechly Bircham rather than giving up on law straight away. I thought that downsizing to smaller commercial deals and working more closely with smaller clients might help. I joined an awesome team and really enjoyed the first three months. However, after another three months I realised that it was actually law that I didn’t enjoy and that I had to think of alternatives. Leaving was an easy decision to make as by then I was near breaking point.
mtl: So what made you go into recruitment instead?
Karen: I considered working for a charity and as I had enjoyed a trainee secondment, I briefly considered in-house work, but that meant sticking with law. So instead I focused on where I wanted to be in five years and what skills I wanted to use. I read a good book on careers for lawyers that had some exercises to help figure out where my interests lay and what my strengths are. I don’t think you can necessarily work this out by yourself and I think that some outside influence, either from a book or a careers adviser, is very helpful.
I knew that primarily I wanted to use my people skills and deal with people. I came to the conclusion that recruitment would be a good way to get into the people market in a sector that I already understood. I already knew a lot of people who did it and so was advised where to apply, but I still wasn’t sure, before trying it, that the sales side would suit me.
Training contract, Cameron McKenna
Projects assistant, Cameron McKenna
Commercial assistant, Speechly Bircham
Recruitment consultant, Hudson Legal
Recruitment consultant, Pure Recruitment
I went to a couple of interviews that were arranged through contacts and decided on Hudson Legal on the basis of its people and culture. There was a tangible energy about the consultants that I didn’t feel elsewhere. If you are considering recruitment then make sure you meet the whole team and find out about the work culture and how business is developed. For example I had autonomy to run my own business, which was a real selling point.
After a year and a half I decided to move to Pure Recruitment as I was really interested in working for a more niche consultancy. I can concentrate on placing mid to senior level lawyers into commerce and industry and also help develop the legal recruitment side of Pure’s business.
mtl: How would you describe the work and what aspect of it do you like best?
Karen: An average day involves running around like a headless chicken. The job is really intense but very rewarding. Days go quickly and it is head down from 8.30am – 6:30pm. The work involves speaking to and interviewing candidates, pitching for business and meeting clients, sorting out advertising for roles, drafting adverts and thinking how to market the team. The mundane (but essential) part of the job involves searching the candidate database day in day out for suitable matches for our roles.
The best things about the job in my opinion are feeling like you are finding people great jobs, the satisfaction of good client relationships and the consultancy part of the process with the candidates and clients. I also enjoy the commercial aspect of running my own business as I am involved in making decisions the whole time on how to run a campaign, what fees to charge and who to target. I have learnt a huge amount about business and sales and my general commercial awareness has improved since leaving law.
About 5% of the time I miss the academic challenge of drafting, but this is counteracted by being challenged in different ways. I don’t actually miss law itself and the move into recruitment was the best decision I ever made. I feel like a whole new career path has opened up for me.
mtl: Who do you think recruitment would suit?
Karen: You can’t do the job if you are shy, you need to have excellent inter-personal skills and to want to deal with people all the time as the phone rings 100% of the time. You also need to like the thrill of the chase. Like in law, you need good time management and organisational skills. You also have to have good sales skills (even if you don’t know that you have these yet) as you are your own product. If you are good at networking then you are half-way there.
The different specialisms attract slightly different people. For example, in-house consultants have to build their own business by going out and getting the roles, so you can’t be afraid of the phone. The skill in private practice is more about cultivating candidates and being consultative as the firms are already there and there is not much scope for growth in the market.
I would say most consultancies would look for confidence without arrogance and someone with good intuition and great personal skills. In return, make sure you apply somewhere with excellent training. The idea of targets may put some lawyers off, but if you are good at the job, the targets will not be an issue. They will only be a problem if you don’t like the work and if you don’t like it you won’t last long anyway. In some consultancies you are rewarded depending on what you bring in. Other agencies may offer a discretionary commission which would be great if you aren’t doing as well as your colleagues, but could possibly be annoying if you are very successful. You can earn as much as lawyers do if you are good.
mtl: As an ex-lawyer who has been through a career change, do you have any other tips?
Karen: Be brave but be sensible. I thought about leaving law for a year before I actually made the move to recruitment. Do lots of research and due diligence into what you think you would be good at and what you wouldn’t be good at. Speak to everyone you know about their jobs. Be sure that you have really had enough of law before you try recruitment as if you are still wondering about it then try something else within the legal sector first.
Recruitment is about understanding candidates, clients and the market. I see it as finding people jobs rather than selling people and I believe in the service that I provide. I couldn’t do it otherwise as I am not a hardened salesperson. Doing legal recruitment means building on the networks that you already have, so you won’t feel like you are starting out from scratch.
If you want to use your communication skills to combine sales with consultancy and business development, in a sector that you understand, then you should definitely consider recruitment. It is not an easy option or an escape route for failed lawyers, but if you want to make use of your market knowledge then it is a way forward. When I was younger I was ambitious and competitive but law killed that for me. This job has revived my drive and motivation to do well.
If you are interested in working for Pure Recruitment or for an informed chat about being a recruitment consultant, then you can call Karen on 0207 429 4422.
If you know any other ex-lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives then please get in touch.
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