recruiting strategiesA few weeks ago, when I described to a colleague how I’d been talking with a partner for eight years before facilitating his move to a different firm, he was surprised. “Eight years?” he asked. “Isn’t that unusual?”

Most legal recruiters would have replied with a definitive “Yes,” but I’m not among them. Prompted by my colleague’s question, I reviewed my partner placements over the past decade. I found that about half of the lateral moves I’ve played a part in grew out of relationships cultivated over the course of three years or more. While the other half of my placements could be described as quick-draw hits—spontaneous instances of being in the right place with the right idea at the right time—I’m a big fan of the long game.

I cold-called the partner mentioned above in June of 2010. He told me he was happy where he was, but always willing to keep an open mind. Thereafter, I stayed in touch, letting him know when unique and suitable opportunities came along. These informal conversations enabled me to learn that he had a consistent $5 million-plus practice. I also gathered details on his platform preferences and his goals.

In 2015, things began to shift. There was a shakeup in his firm’s leadership, followed by the departures of several of his closest partners. Although his hours and originations hadn’t slipped, in the space of three years, he saw his compensation drop by more than 30 percent. Worst of all, he felt he was being relegated to the sidelines.

So, when I suggested that he consider speaking with the New York office of a US-based international firm, where he would be charged with expanding the litigation practice in his area of expertise, he agreed to take a first meeting. His new prospective partners expressed respect for his accomplishments, and made it clear that they wanted him to play a pivotal role in developing their practice—assurances he found inspiring. While the firm made him an offer that brought him back up to his 2015 compensation, he chose to move forward with them not so much for the money, but for the chance to reinvigorate his career.

Obviously, had that this partner not taken my call, and had we not stayed in touch, the move I just described never would have happened. While this is an admittedly self-serving point, when a reputable recruiter calls, it can’t hurt to respond. Top-notch recruiting firms (particularly those who are members of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants) can advance careers in unpredictable ways, and it doesn’t always happen overnight.

The next time you see a recruiter’s caller ID pop up on your phone, answer. Every dodged call could be a missed opportunity.