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Selecting the Best In-House Counsel Recruitment Firm


As the corporate legal landscape becomes increasingly complex, the role of in-house legal counsel is more important than ever. But finding the best legal talent can prove a daunting challenge. Most organizations do not have the time, the resources, or the expertise to conduct a thorough search themselves. Too often, they end up selecting from a pool of unqualified candidates for this vital position.

More companies are discovering that outsourcing the search process to one of the top legal recruitment search firms for in-house counsel in the U.S. produces faster, more reliable results. It also helps them avoid a costly hiring mistake that can have severe long-term implications.

BarkerGilmore has compiled the following in-depth guide for executives who are looking for resources or assistance with hiring top-level in-house counsel positions. This guide includes tips for choosing not only the best in-house counsel recruitment agency, but the one that will be the right firm for your organization.

Importance of Selecting the Best Recruiting Organizations for In-House Counsel

Why is it so important to choose the best in-house counsel recruitment firm? Now that the corporate legal landscape has become more intricate than ever, finding the best recruitment firm is essential for the success of your in-house legal counsel. The following are a few reasons why a company may want to work with an in-house counsel recruitment firm:

1. Enhance the Quality of the Hire

One of the reasons to use an in-house counsel recruitment firm is to enhance the quality of the hire. Recruitment firms tend to be specialized in specific functions and industries, which means they will already have at their disposal a pool of talent from which to select a candidate.

2. Protect Your Organization with Additional Security

By working with a recruitment firm, an organization gains additional security concerning new hire retention. Many companies consider this the most valuable benefit that a recruitment firm offers. The best recruitment firms provide their clients with guarantee periods, which ensure that a new hire will remain with the organization for a certain amount of time.

If a new hire does leave or is terminated before the guarantee period expires, the firm will either provide a full refund or find a replacement at no extra charge.

3. Save Time

The hiring process is often time-consuming. Using an in-house counsel recruitment firm saves the organization time, allowing its employees to focus their attention on the day-to-day needs of the business.

A recruitment firm is comprised of professionals whose job it is to research and recruit qualified candidates. The right recruitment firm will have relationships with candidates who are excellent options for the open position. This can significantly reduce the time that the recruitment process takes.

4. Hiring Expertise

Many companies lack in-house recruiters and hiring expertise for corporate counsel, particularly smaller companies and startups. These organizations tend to lack the resources and knowledge necessary to find and hire the best possible candidates for their in-house legal counsel. Using the services of a recruitment firm ensures that the hiring process is performed effectively and professionally.

Things to Look for in a Firm

What should one look for in an in-house legal counsel recruitment firm? Several legal search firms will claim to be the best, but not all of them deliver what they promise. Use the following metrics and tips to assist in finding a trustworthy executive search firm:

1. References

The first tip for choosing the best in-house counsel recruiting firm is asking for references. The recruiter should be willing to give you references who can validate their work. When speaking to a recruiter's reference, ask the following questions:

  • How proactive and responsive is the recruiter?
  • Did the recruiter initiate most of the communication and follow up regularly?
  • Did the recruiter consider your goals?
  • Did they provide a diverse slate of candidates?

The experiences of previous clients will help establish expectations for working with a recruiter. Hearing from peers in the industry about how well an agency filled a position will help determine whether a firm is right for your organization. References can also help you find out how contracts may be upheld and fees may be handled.

Additionally, it may be prudent to network with other industry contacts to see which executive search firms they have used in the past. Ask questions about the efficiency of the process, whether they are satisfied with the results, and whether they would recommend the firm to others.

2. Track Record

Determine how long the firm has been in business and their level of experience in conducting searches for top legal talent for other companies in your industry. Look for valid, relevant statistics regarding placement and retention rates and the average length of search times.

To learn more about the firm's track record, ask about their recent placements. Asking for recent placements can confirm whether that recruitment firm truly works well in the market. If the firm reports placements only within a certain practice area, question whether the firm is a good fit for you.

3. Access to a Network of Available Talent

One may also want to choose a recruitment firm that has previous experience within their market of interest. A recruitment firm should have a network of available talent, which they often develop through industry contacts throughout the country.

A recruitment firm should have relationships with candidates on a local and national basis. The best in-house legal recruiters do not rely on finding candidates who are actively seeking a new position as these individuals are not always the most qualified. Instead, they use well-honed networking skills to develop a list of highly talented individuals who are not necessarily seeking a change but are willing to consider the right opportunity.

4. Candidate Assessment Process

The top legal recruiting firms have a carefully developed, time-tested methodology for finding and vetting in-house counsel candidates. Their assessment will identify attorneys who can work as strategic business partners while being a good cultural fit for the organization - the two most critical elements for successful placements.

At BarkerGilmore, we developed the proprietary assessment process tailored explicitly for corporate legal and compliance leaders to vet every candidate and find the most qualified candidates for the position.

5. Hands-Off List

One thing to be aware of when choosing an in-house counsel recruitment firm is a hands-off list. Most large search firms have an equally large "hands-off" policy that limits their ability to recruit executives from their existing client pool. Unfortunately, this can also significantly reduce the number of qualified candidates available for your position.

Instead, work with a recruitment firm that can offer access to as many qualified, top-level candidates as possible. If a firm is not providing the quality candidates your organization needs, then it may be time to seek another firm.

6. Contract Terms

Finally, look at the contract terms when considering hiring a recruitment search firm for in-house counsel. Take the time to read the contract before hiring any legal recruiting agency. Be sure to read the contract in its entirety, as this is where an organization can overpay or receive inadequate guarantees.

The language should be clear and concise, and it should provide a thorough understanding of the fee structure. A reputable search firm will offer a flexible fee arrangement based on performance and results. If there are any concerns you want to address, request that the contract be amended.

Why Choose BarkerGilmore as Your In-House Counsel Talent Acquisition Firm

BarkerGilmore is a boutique recruiting firm that specializes in finding the top legal counsel and compliance officer talent nationwide. Client satisfaction, placement retention, and diversity remain our proudest measures of success. We have a proven track record for getting results for our clients — 98% of all searches we've started in the past three years have led to successful placements, and 96% of the candidates we placed three years ago are still with the company where we placed them.

We Are Committed to Diversity

We also take pride in our ability to locate diverse candidates and are unparalleled in our record of diversity recruiting. For two decades, we have been recognized nationally for recruiting women and minorities for our clients' leadership positions. In 2019, 47% of our placements were women or minorities. Hiring diverse professionals helps build world-class, high-quality legal and compliance departments.

A team with a variety of life experiences, backgrounds and ways of thinking will ensure a vibrant, healthy organization. Your staff should be as diverse as the customers you serve, as you will be better equipped to understand and meet your customers' needs.

In a recent audit of BarkerGilmore’s placements over the last three years, we found that 45% of the placements were women and 23% were minorities. When you are looking for top in-house legal recruiters, you can trust BarkerGilmore will present you with a diverse selection of talent. Each talent will be pre-qualified and thoroughly evaluated for the position. Searching for a diverse range of professionals is integral to our process.

We Have Developed the CustomFitSM Legal Recruiting Process

BarkerGilmore has developed the CustomFitSM Legal Recruiting Process — an effective, reliable search process that sets the standard for our industry. Because of our boutique size, our hands-off clients are fewer, enabling a deeper pool of candidates from which we can source. Our CustomFitSM method entails tapping into our vast talent pool to locate the most qualified candidates and conducting a comprehensive assessment of each person.

Our CustomFitSM process is comprised of six stages:

  1. Alignment: In the first stage, we determine key attributes, such as experience, competencies, and personality traits desired by our client. Our team also uncovers how to motivate the strongest in-house compliance officers or lawyers.
  2. Research: The second stage is research based on feedback from our clients. Our dedicated team of researchers use a unique search technology and capitalize on their industry relationships to form a pool of qualified candidates for the assignment.
  3. Marketing: In the third stage, our consultants approach qualified individuals and provide them a detailed description that highlights the key selling points of the opportunity, along with the most attractive features to generate further excitement and interest among potential candidates.
  4. Assessment: The fourth stage is assessment. During this stage, we use our proprietary assessment process and interview techniques to evaluate the skills, behavioral traits, cultural fit, and leadership abilities of top contenders.
  5. Delivery: In the fifth stage, we deliver a field of talent and guide the client through the interview process. When a finalist has been selected, we will negotiate the offer and provide support to both the client and the candidate during the onboarding process and through every step of the transition.
  6. Satisfaction: During the sixth stage, we conduct an audit on the quality of the process to determine whether the search exceeded the expectations of our client. BarkerGilmore aims to maintain a relationship with candidates and clients that will last long after the process has been completed. Over the past three years, 97% of clients have rated our service as exceeding expectations or exceptional.

This process ensures we only deliver candidates who possess position-specific skills and experience, along with the ideal cultural fit. It also significantly reduces the search time; we can typically fill an in-house counsel position in 90 days or fewer. Since our hands-off list is smaller, we have access to a larger number of candidates for faster recruiting.

BarkerGilmore Has a Niche Focus on In-House Counsel Recruiting

Are the responsibilities of your legal team growing, yet the budget is staying the same or shrinking? Now more than ever, there is a high demand for strong in-house legal counsel who are recognized as strategic advisors who know how to improve results and reduce costs.

When it comes to choosing an executive search firm for in-house legal recruiting, look no further than BarkerGilmore.

At BarkerGilmore, our record of success is what sets us apart from our competitors who lack the same niche expertise. By working with us, you will be putting your trust in our large network through which you will gain access to exceptional candidates with top credentials and the ability to work well with your executive team. We have fine-tuned our assessment of talent to ensure we find the candidate who will be most successful for your organization.

BarkerGilmore works with organizations in many industries to place top talent in available positions, including:

Our recruiters can assist with filling many positions, including General Counsel, Deputy General Counsel, Senior Counsel, and Interim GC. Some of our recent legal placements include:

  • Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary
  • EVP, General Counsel, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer
  • VP, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
  • General Counsel, Americas
  • Deputy General Counsel, Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Division General Counsel
  • Chief Intellectual Property Counsel
  • Assistant General Counsel, Labor & Employment
  • Associate General Counsel, Corporate
  • Managing Counsel, Contracts
  • Senior Counsel
  • Corporate Secretary

When you choose us as your in-house legal recruitment firm, we can find the best candidates for your available role, save you time, and provide you with access to talent with an exceptional track record. We are committed to success, diversity, retention, and customer satisfaction.

Request a Consultation from BarkerGilmore’s Legal and Compliance

At BarkerGilmore, our legal and compliance advisors can provide you with resources and assistance for your in-house legal counsel. When it comes to establishing and building the strongest in-house legal and compliance departments, we are nationally trusted and respected. If you choose to work with us, we will deliver top-tier recruiting services, leadership development solutions, and consulting services.

Our areas of expertise and insight include:

Whatever legal issue you may be facing, we can help find the in-house counsel you need. If you're interested in learning more about what makes BarkerGilmore the best in-house legal recruiters in the U.S., contact us today to learn more or request a consultation.

Topics: Recruiting   |   Legal   |   Executive Search


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