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November 29, 2021 Asked and Answered

3 decades ago, legal headhunting required more time for fewer placements

By Stephanie Francis Ward

The heavy, hardback editions of Martindale-Hubbell law directories, which were published annually and had different volumes for each jurisdiction, represented an important tool for executive search consultants back in the 1980s, before internet access was common, and lawyers’ backgrounds could only be found through paper or word of mouth.

Valerie Fontaine, a recruiter who works in Los Angeles, and Marina Sirras, who has a New York search firm, would read every volume, looking for potential candidates to pair up with private law firm clients.

Reaching lawyers then was much more difficult, they say, because email was nonexistent, and secretaries, sometimes instructed not to take recruiter solicitations, screened phone calls. Once a candidate was found, resumés and firm listings were often distributed through mail, and the process could take weeks.

Both women are featured in this month’s Asked and Answered podcast, which is looking at how legal recruiting has changed over the years, including an incredibly hot job market for 2021.

Send ideas for future episodes to ABA Journal Senior Writer Stephanie Francis Ward.

In This Podcast

Valerie Fontaine

Valerie Fontaine is a principal with SeltzerFontaine and also is secretary to the board of directors of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants. Her book, The Right Moves: Job Search and Career Development Strategies for Lawyers, was published by the National Association for Law Placement.

Marina Sirras

Marina Sirras is a past president of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants and has more than 21 years of experience in legal recruiting. Her business, Marina Sirras & Associates, is based in New York.

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