Mary Nowell
Mary Nowell
Managing Director: Private Practice

Articles From the Team

Competition – Good or Bad?

My career in legal recruitment started over a decade ago. I studied Law at university and always thought I would become a lawyer; that wasn’t meant to be and so I joined the graduate scheme of an International recruiter in 2005 ready to take the legal recruitment world be storm. Of course it didn’t quite happen like that, it took time to learn new skills, adapt, gain market knowledge; in reality it was 12 months before I started to understand the importance of being a ‘consultant’. A lot has changed in the recruitment life cycle since then; the crash in 2008 which impacted heavily on that generation of lawyers (and in turn recruiters!), the introduction of LinkedIn and other social networking sites making potential candidates far more visible and a million and one other changes. One change (is it negative or positive, I can’t work it out?) is the sheer number of legal recruiters.

If we rewind 10 years the legal recruitment market was relatively compact, there were the larger International recruiters and the smaller niche firms that I grew up with - I generally ‘knew’ everyone. I would often find myself up against the same competition, at recruitment briefings I knew the consultants that I sat opposite, when I met a candidate whose search was not limited to just BCL Legal they were invariably registered with an agency that I recognised. How the world has changed. There are countless recruitment firms springing up across Manchester boasting directors that have operated in the market for a collective 6 minutes. I speak to candidates who have been discussing positions with ‘Joe Bloggs Legal’ and ‘’ all professing to offer ‘honesty, integrity and professionalism’ - like you would boast the alternative.

So is this a positive thing? Well competition is generally never bad. Competition often drives improvement, innovation and keeps cost to a proportionate level. I am certainly not afraid of competition and recognise that new entrants to a market can, in most cases, be a positive addition. I guess I do worry a little when I see a very small recruitment business with Directors that have very little track record or market knowledge. Recruitment is a largely unregulated industry and sadly there are those that take a short term and in the worst examples, dishonest approach. The number of duplicate CV’s (a candidate sent to a law firm by 2 or more agencies) is at an all time high. The amount of occasions when questioning these duplications when a candidate simply had no knowledge at all that an approach was being made and so the CV had been sent with prior consent. Instances when candidates have been sent ‘speculatively’ to a huge number of firms by agencies not even on the firms preferred supplier list (and so unable to represent said candidate) and countless other examples of lazy and downright dishonest practices.

We are definitely not all bad (I promise!) but sadly there some that still continue to give us a bad name. So what’s my advice? Question, inspect and do your research. If you register with an agency make sure you know how long they have been in existence (I’m not saying all start ups are bad by the way – everyone starts somewhere), ask your recruiter about their market knowledge and who they know, consider track record – can you ask a friend for a recommendation, perhaps they have previously placed with a particular partner, ask what PSL’s your recruiter is part of and when they suggest a series of firms then make sure you know which are live vacancies. Never sign an agreement granting exclusivity (I don’t see how you could ever justify this), and make it very clear that your CV should only ever be released with prior consent. To be honest (and I promise my integrity is second to none), I would just register with BCL Legal….

For more information contact Mary Nowell at BCL Legal.

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