My understanding is that the standard charge of executive search firms that place a candidate is on the order of a quarter to a third of the lawyer’s first year compensation. Or, at least that was the range back in the palmy days. Whatever the charge, it mostly applies to more senior lawyers.
Junior lawyers can be recruited through many other means, but not for free (See my post of Sept. 22, 2009: ways to find lawyers for openings other than search firms with 17 references and 1 metapost.).
What, then, is a typical cost of recruitment if a search firm does not get the mandate? I read in a report a figure of “2% of total salary” but I do not know whether that figure holds water. It should cover a trip in for interviews, some job posting fees, perhaps a signing or moving bonus, but what other out-of-pocket expenses? That small percentage cannot include the value of internal time on recruitment.