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How to use a recruitment consultant


We are in the strangest of times at the moment with Brexit, an ongoing pandemic, potential Christmas present/food/booze shortages and now a lack of fuel (surely we need to stop panic buying fuel and start hoarding the gin?). You would think this could be the recipe for a very stagnant job market, but it appears to be the catalyst for the busiest, craziest time in recruitment I have ever known. I think I may be boring every candidate and client I speak to at the moment with “in ten years of recruitment I’ve never known a market like this.…but it’s true! So, I think it is vitally important to talk about how to use a recruitment consultant, because you might just be thinking of using one.

I speak to lawyers of all levels and expertise from equity partners to trainees looking for their first solicitor role. I frequently advise NQs who have never needed to use a recruitment consultant until now or very experienced solicitors who have trained and stayed with their current firm and not ever dipped their toe in the legal recruitment market. I find myself providing these candidates with a set of (suggested) rules to help them with their job search journey and allowing their chosen recruitment consultant to do the best they can for their candidate.

The ‘rules’:

Choose to use a recruiter

Think about this one before you embark on your job search and then stick to your decision. There are many reasons to use a recruitment consultant (my colleague Iona has written a blog on this topic), or you can decide to find a role through your own network. However, decide to do one or the other, as doing both can be confusing and could mean you do not get the best out of your chosen recruiter.

Understand how the world of recruitment works

You can ask your recruiter to explain this. Sometimes we forget that lawyers haven’t been taught how recruitment works alongside their legal studies! We can only represent you with a law firm if they have not received your details from elsewhere in the last 6 – 12 months (depending on the firm) and we make our fees by charging the firm a percentage of your salary. This fee is paid out of a different pot, not out of your pay, so you need not worry. Firms usually have this set aside as part of their recruitment spend.

Make use of your recruiter’s market knowledge

An established and experienced recruitment agency like Chadwick Nott is frequently informed of job roles before they are put out on the market or job boards due to our close working relationships with firms. This makes us a good source of market intelligence and we can give you the opportunity to apply for jobs before others are aware of them.

Use one recruitment consultant (or two at a push)

This rule is very important to me, and perhaps should jump the pecking order to number one! This often isn’t an issue as lawyers tend to be a loyal bunch, and usually entrust only one recruiter with their job search knowing this is vital for a professional and properly managed search.

The reason I say this is that everyone then knows where they are, your job search can be confidentially, professionally, and carefully managed without CVs flying everywhere resulting in duplicate CV sends, which could obviously annoy any prospective employer. At Chadwick Nott, we take each job search very seriously and with allocated time and focus given to each of our candidates. We discuss in detail your requirements, idiosyncrasies of firms/teams, the type of work you specialise in or are looking to develop, the personalities of both firms and lawyers and whether you would match. It’s not a simple process, and it’s one that needs to be carried out well. Trusting one recruiter with your search is essential in showing your own commitment and in return receiving outstanding treatment and commitment from your recruiter. I often tell candidates to please stick to one recruiter, whether that’s me or one of my competitors. I can always provide a list of the competitors I trust.

Choose the right recruiter

Make sure they are well known in the market. Ask friends/peers for referrals. Ensure they work with every firm in the area, big or small. Make sure they are not one of the ‘sharky’ ones! As I said, I can give you a list of alternative options if Chadwick Nott is not right for you. There are a few impressive competitors in our South West market.

I’ll go into some more detail here – if you appoint a recruiter to work on your behalf and discuss the market, your options, and different law firms in detail with you, and then you decide to contact those firms yourself, it can trigger a whole host of issues. These include duplicated applications, law firm contacts being unsure about whether you meant to instruct a recruiter or not, and maybe even distrust from the recruiter.

It is best to discuss with your recruitment consultant from the outset what you would like to do and how you would like to work.  If you would like the recruiter to contact five firms on your behalf and contact two yourself, be honest and clear from the outset and this will save time and embarrassment later.


 Another important rule when working with a recruiter is to be honest. We pride ourselves on our honesty here at Chadwick Nott. In fact, only last Friday a candidate said to me “you really don’t talk like a recruiter, you are so straight-talking” – I think that was a compliment! We are proud of the fact that we are very professional and pride ourselves in our integrity. We sometimes lose fees advising candidates to go for jobs when we are not representing them, because it is genuinely the best option for them. However, we do ask for honesty in return, so please make sure you let your recruiter know about roles or firms you’re speaking with directly, other agencies you’re talking to or if you’ve had a change of heart and want to stay where you are. We need all of the facts to advise you properly.

Enjoy the lunch!

Let Chadwick Nott treat you to a lovely lunch. The market is so buoyant at the moment, and with the world ‘opening up’, we are keen to get out there and meet people to ensure we are up to date with them and the market. It’s the best perk of the job and I’ve met some fantastic lawyers and sometimes made really good friends along the way.

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