Stefan Stern, who writes thoughtful columns for the Financial Times, passes on some good points about why it is better to recruit from the ranks (Fin. Times, March 6, 2007 at 7). “In the long run, growing your own talent, and then holding onto it, is always going to be a cheaper and more effective approach than stepping outside to find it in a noisy and uncertain marketplace.”
He criticizes the headhunter business. “According to industry experts, one in three search assignments, on average, is never filled.” That statistic, if it holds true for talent searches by law departments, is startling.
Stern believes that many headhunters are second careerists, who may have no particular aptitude or discipline for spotting talented individuals.
Worse, by Stern’s account, the best lawyers are rarely available to fill your vacancy. A law department may end up having to make do with the fifth or sixth best candidate, because that is the person they can get.