17 February 2017
I had a chat earlier this week with a friend who offered up details of a recent misadventure involving Shotgun Sam, the cowboy recruiter.
As a well known partner, “John” is frequently approached with this or that fantastic, one-of-a-kind, and made-just-for-you opportunity. That being so, he should have been on his guard; however, he was by his own admission caught at a bad moment and did not pay as much attention as he acknowledges he should have done. Given that he was distracted, all John heard was that Shotgun Sam had been instructed to approach him about a specific opportunity with Smith & Jones. Knowing the firm and its stellar reputation, he expressed an interest, but did not follow up with any questions or seek any additional information. This, he recognizes, was a big mistake!
The problem? Shotgun Sam had no mandate whatsoever from the firm, and the approach was nothing more than a fishing expedition (see Fishing Expeditions). This became evident when John heard nothing back from Smith & Jones, despite Shotgun Sam’s assertion that he had been specifically instructed to approach him with this opportunity. Come to find out, there was no opportunity!
Whether you are an established partner or a younger associate just beginning to build your name and reputation, how can you avoid finding yourself in such an embarrassing position? It is not always possible to protect yourself against this kind of trap, but there are a couple of things that you should always do in such a situation to help lessen the chances of it happening to you.
First, before you allow your candidacy to be put forward and before submitting your CV, demand to see a written mandate from the law firm to the recruiter. If it is a legitimate opportunity, he will be able to provide one immediately. Absent a specific mandate, you can be nearly certain that it is merely Shotgun Sam trying to drum up business for himself.
Second, ask the recruiter why the firm finds your profile to be of interest. Seek to learn what it is about your background and experience that the firm finds especially attractive. Demand specificity. If he can provide nothing more than vague and general words about your “excellent reputation in the market”, the chances are very good that it is not a legitimate approach, but rather a Shotgun Sam fishing expedition.