The Road To In-House: How Do I Leverage My Contacts?

Make it easy for people to help you: be as specific as possible in outlining your ask.

“I’m ready to move in-house. How do I leverage my contacts to help make that happen?” This is a question I’m asked often. Here is my advice.

Most importantly, as I mentioned in my article on the importance of authentic networking, you should be building relationships all along, not just when you need something! Networking implies a specific goal. Building relationships is a way of life. Make it your way of life.

What is the best way to build relationships? By helping others, even if it’s in little ways. They will remember you, and you’ll allow them to get to know you as a person.

Remember, it’s not a tit-for-tat. You may help Susie and Sally, and they may never reciprocate. But Kelly and Katie help you out, and you may not have the opportunity to pay them back. That’s OK. Don’t be that person who keeps a scorecard.

But do keep track! Not of who does what for whom, but of your contacts: when you last touched base, plus a few notes on what you discussed or what was the nature of your reach-out. It sounds artificial to keep a spreadsheet of everyone you know, but what is important is that your interactions are sincere. Building relationships is less about meeting new people and more about keeping in touch with the people you already know.

Does this sound a bit like business development? Yes! “Business development” can be a scary concept for lawyers, something you’re automatically supposed to know how to do once you make partner. But that’s all wrong! Successful business development is also about building relationships. So why wait until you make partner? Start now!

Now when you are looking for a new job, the first step is to reach out to your existing relationships and let them know you’re open to new opportunities.  And if the search takes time, remind your contacts from time to time that you’re still looking.

Make it easy for people to help you: be as specific as possible in outlining your ask. Do you want them to pass along your resume to someone in particular? To make a warm introduction to a specific contact? To give you the inside scoop on what it’s like to work at their company? To give feedback on your resume or cover letter? Spread out the asks, avoiding asking too much or too often of one person. Even “weak tie” contacts (a term coined by Mark Granovetter in 1973) will find it hard to say “no” to a very specific request that will take only five minutes of their time.

What about working with recruiters to find your in-house job? Lateral Link does significant work in the world of in-house placements through our sister agency, Cadence Counsel. But it works a little differently from law firm recruiting. We work with almost all the law firms out there. We can be proactive in helping you, as a law firm associate or partner, find a new firm job. On the in-house side, clients come to us to help find candidates with very specific skill sets and experiences. The process is more search-driven than candidate-driven.

While we can’t actively help you find an in-house job, we can make a note of your credentials and what you’re looking for and be sure to reach out if something appropriate does come our way. So do be sure to let your trusted recruiter know if you’re open to in-house roles!

Abby Gordon

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by Abby Gordon, Senior Director at Lateral Link, who works with attorney candidates on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in Boston, New York, and Europe. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York and for the last five years for European clients in Paris. A native of Boston, Abby holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in government and romance languages, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. Abby also worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain. She is a member of the New York, Massachusetts and Maine Bars and is fluent in French and Spanish (and dabbles in Portuguese and Italian). You can view additional articles by Abby here.

Lateral Link is one of the top-rated international legal recruiting firms. With over 14 offices worldwide, Lateral Link specializes in placing attorneys at the most prestigious law firms and companies in the world. Managed by former practicing attorneys from top law schools, Lateral Link has a tradition of hiring lawyers to execute the lateral leaps of practicing attorneys. Click here to find out more about us.