In the latest instalment of our Alternative Careers in Law series, The Lex 100 speaks to Ben Julius, senior consultant at Eximius Law, a London-based legal recruitment specialist. Here, Ben explains why a legal background can stand you in good stead for a career in recruitment.
What is your background?
I studied Theology at the University of Bristol. After I graduated I moved to Hong Kong for a year, where I worked for an executive search company and as a paralegal at Mayer Brown JSM. I then returned to the UK where I undertook the GDL. After completing the GDL, I worked for a sports management company before going on to study the LPC. I was subsequently offered a training contract at a high-street firm in North London but eventually decided this wasn’t for me as I wouldn’t be able to practise in the areas of law I was interested in. I then began to explore alternative options to practising as a solicitor.
A number of my friends were headhunters and told me that recruitment agencies were always on the lookout for new talent. I applied speculatively to different agencies and after receiving three offers, I chose to join a boutique agency. One of my reasons for choosing Eximius was that the company had recently been through a management buyout and each team was run by a partner. This reassured me that the partners were very invested in the business.
How has your legal training prepared you for your current role, if at all?
There’s no getting away from the fact that a big part of working in recruitment is sales. But the job is also quite technical and this is where having an understanding of law firms and practice areas comes in very useful. My role also involves a lot of negotiation – whether that’s negotiating terms with new clients, negotiating compensation packages for candidates or negotiating contracts.
Another big part of my job is business development so it helps to know different people within the industry, be they former classmates from law school or family members. It helps to know a lot of lawyers!
What are your main responsibilities?
My main responsibility is to find the best possible candidates for my client and to enable a smooth recruitment process. Representing the candidates as best as possible and helping them make the best career decisions is also a key part of what I do.
Tell us how a typical ‘search’ works.
A client will get in touch saying they are looking for a lawyer to fill a particular vacancy. I’ll then have a briefing over the phone or in person with the line manager and the HR partner. Often there are recruiters from other agencies on the call. The client will explain the role, how it has come about, what the work entails and what sort of candidates they are looking for in terms of experience, background and level. At the end of the briefing, I’ll have an opportunity to ask the client questions.
I then start looking for potential candidates. I do this by reaching out to candidates I know already, searching on Linkedin and using the company database. I also do some cold-calling! Once I have found some suitable candidates, I put together a shortlist and send it to the client along with a brief description of the applicants and their CVs.
The client comes back requesting interviews with certain candidates. I am responsible for arranging the interviews as well as preparing the candidates for them. Depending on the institution in question, there is usually a HR test which is then followed by between two to five rounds of interviews where candidates meet various members of the team. It can be a long process!
If a candidate is successful, I’ll then work to negotiate the best deal possible for them, depending on their individual circumstances and experience.
What do you enjoy about your job?
It’s a very sales-driven environment which suits me because I’m competitive – there really is no place to hide! Having said that, you do get out what you put in. I’ve received great training and I feel that I’ve been entrusted with a lot of responsibility earlier than I may have done working at a big law firm. It is very motivating to know that there is potential to move up the ranks quickly in this industry.
I really enjoy helping high-profile lawyers both in the UK and internationally to move roles, as well as working with recognisable institutions in Europe and the US. The pay is also great; although my base salary may be lower than that of some trainee solicitors, there is a good commission scheme in place which means that the earning potential is high.
And what do you not enjoy so much?
As I previously mentioned, it’s a sales-driven environment and so the job can be very high-pressure. This can be both a good and bad thing.
There are times when you’re not treated with respect by candidates and clients, which is difficult. There is also a lot of speaking to people on the phone about things you don’t initially know much about, which can be daunting, but you get used to it very quickly!
Do you have any advice for individuals considering going into legal recruitment?
Think carefully about the type of company you want to work for. The size of the company and size of the team in which you will be working are important factors to consider, as is the quality of the work you will be doing and the type of clients and candidates you will be working with.
I would definitely recommend legal recruitment as a career path for individuals with a legal background because of the crossover between what you learn at law school and the skills required for the role.