Data on the importance of headhunters and some projections about the law departments they like to draw from

“Currently, the average U.S. manager stays with an employer for a median of six years, and about two thirds of the open positions are filled by outsiders.” Both figures from Perspectives, Nov. 2010 at 46, seem high if I consider turnover of senior lawyers in law departments – the direct reports to the general counsel and the general counsel – and where their replacements come from. The article claims that newly hired executives more often find their position through their own networking efforts than any other method, followed by through executive search firms. “Executive search firms fill about 54% of all U.S. positions with an annual compensation level of $150,000 and above,” based on data from 2003 (so perhaps $175,000 might be the comparable compensation band today).

Other findings, if applicable to law departments, discuss research that found that executive search firms favor luring senior lawyers from law departments of companies with strong reputations and performance. “The executive’s actual performance inside the high-status organization matters less, because it is difficult to obtain relevant information on the performance and because this status-based process produces ‘defensible’ candidates.”

Much as law firms hire associates from prestigious law schools, law departments that rely on search firms gravitate lawyers from ranked companies. One would expect many lawyers leading legal teams in the U.S. to have matriculated from Fortune 100 legal departments.

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