An LLM Professional Career Launcher Perspective

By John G. Kelly, B.Com., LL.B., M.Sc. (international relations) M.A. (Jud.Admin) F.CIS

Reinventing Law Firm Recruitment – Part II

“Know Thyself”

Only when we quiet the peer, parental, academic, corporate and social voices telling us what we “should” want and what we’re “supposed” to do can we listen for our own internal desires and dreams. And only by listening carefully can we start to see what our version of success looks like. [1]

I encourage you to do a reread of “Reinventing Law Firm Recruitment – Part 1. It’s easily accessible on the Professional Perspectives page through the LLM Professional Career Launcher web site or through my Linkedin postings. The farcical “speed dating” law school/law firm recruitment process described in damning detail by Hadiyah Roderique that law students submit themselves to is driven by all the above voices telling them that their future is determined and dependent on “getting hired on by a law firm”.They block out who they really are and/or their reason for going to law school. They surrender their “authenticity.”[2] .It’s the law firm that will launch them into a dream professional career of which they have only the vaguest knowledge of.

La firms are now just one of a number of professional legal services providers, notably along with the” Big Four Consultancies [3], ubiquitous legal business services consultants [4], niche sector advocate societies, [5] mediators [6], arbitrators [7], self-help tech providers [8], accountants, etc.”. They’re “disrupting” the conventional practice of law by providing what are increasingly “multi-disciplinary” services that combine law with another discipline in an extremely competitive “21st Century Professional Services market [9]. Law when necessary, but not necessarily the law is the legal services mantra [10]. As Reid Hoffman, co-founder of “Linkedin” points out, “with the death of traditional career paths so goes the kind of traditional professional development previous generations enjoyed”. [11]

The brutal reality for junior associate at the bottom of the law firm client relationship ladder with its billable hour treadmill sets in within a year or two at most. Then the identity crisis begins. That’s when, all too frequently, either they or the law firm, or both, realize that their personalized version of success just doesn’t fit with the firm. In fact, they may not even have a personalized version of success. They never did manage to quiet the noise from those above voices and articulate their own internal desires and dreams 

hat Millennials Want and Law Firms Aren’t Delivering

Research by leading edge legal services educators and law practice consultants such as Heidi K. Gardner, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession, suggest that “millennials want to be able to make independent decisions and choose their own path [12].” That entry to that path is dependent on acquiring some form of specialization either through an LLM or certification [13]. They want to pursue professional opportunities as client capable service providers. A recent much acclaimed comprehensive Canadian study on “Redefining Work” corroborates what Ms. Gardner and Harvard aw School Center studies have discovered and adds that, for a significant number of aspiring professionals, the preferred professional career path for millennials encompasses the following attributes.

Feeling like your job is helping others and making a difference is fulfilling. This isn’t restricted to the “helping professions” in health care, social work of teaching. Workers in many sorts of customer or client service roles experience the satisfaction of “doing good” by helping people. [14]

There certainly always has been, still is, and always will be the “six/seven figure income shooter” cohort looking to law school and “Bay Street” and partner careers with big law firm as the life worth living above all else. The “seven -year itch” of chieving partner status by sacrificing so much of one’s personal live to meet gruelling annual billable hour targets and climb up the asociate ladder step by step will ultimately create a high end blended blissful professional and personal life; supposedly.

However, with many millennials “money is not the big motivator” [15] Nor is the prestige of being a partner with a life- long career in a law firm.

  • Full-time employees experience the highest of job stress, whereas low job stress is reported by self-employed and workers in contingent positions.
  • The self- employed experience the highest level of job satisfaction and life satisfaction.
  • The self-employed are most likely to look forward to work each day [16]

Law Students & Disgruntled Junior Associates Need to “Reverse Engineer Recruitment”

Why did Reid Hoffman create Linkedin and why is it a resounding success? Because, to quote this silicon billionaire, “it’s up to you to – with the help of your friends and network- to find and develop professional opportunities for yourself”[17] Law students and disgruntled junior associates need to engage in a fundamental “reverse engineering” and transition from being recruited to becoming recruiters in legal and law related professional services “opportunity mrkets”[18]

“Opportunity markets” tend to be linked with “curated groups”[19]. These are professional associations with missions and mandates to promote best practices and professional development among aspiring and established professionals who ascribe to the curated groups mission and goals. For example, privacy is growth opportunity market. The International Association of Privacy [20] Professionals (IAPP) is the locus and focal point for best practices advocacy, professional development initiatives and career opportunities. Lawyers and law related professional services providers who specialize in privacy services utilize IAPP as their primary source for peer networking and marketing their services.

The “Gig Economy” dominates the Opportunity Market

There’s a new catchy label for what Reid Hoffman is alluding to. It’s known as the “Gig Economy”. It’s not to be confused with low wage part-time work. It’s actually been in existence for many years in professional services under the label as consulting. In the law firm community, it’s referred to as contract lawyering. Silicon Valley has elevated “gig” working into preferred professional work as highly motivated “high tech” workers aggressively recruiting companies to retain them through peer to peer P2P [21] curated unregulated professional associations. Your career is you. Noted Gig economy authority and Diane Mulcahy describes its attributes and attractiveness to new age professionals as follows:

The Gig Economy offers us the chance to structure and control our time in ways that we never could as full-time employees. Working as a contractor can give us unprecedented autonomy to decide where, when and how much we want to work. Even if we end up working more hours in the Gig Economy we retain more agency, ownership and control over where and when those hour occur. These changes encourage us to think explicitly about our time as a resource and be more intentional about how we allocate it and structure it. It also gives us more opportunity to align our time with our priorities.[22]

The Gig Economy and personalized opportunity marketing doesn’t mean that a law student or prospective LLM multi-disciplinary legal services provider should be thinking that they will be relegating themselves to an endless series of short term consulting/contracting assignments. Apple, Google, Linkedin, etc. employ tens of thousands of Gig Economy Silicon Valley professionals who have five-ten year records of continuous and very rewarding careers with their organizations. The message that the Gig Economy is putting out is that in an information dominated economy the information holder can and should position themselves to manage their professional life in a manner that enables them to leverage their passion and professional aspirations into a career that adds value to their personal life and life-style preferences. You work with or for an organization so long as there’s a professional and personal lifestyle match in place. If and when a mismatch occurs you move on. If and when the opportunity market provides a re-match you re-engage.

Every millennial is familiar with the professional work life “wonderland” of Silicon Valley. What many law students aren’t introduced to and familiarized with at the recruitment stage of their career is the emergence of law firm boutiques [23] that ascribe to the Gig economy model. The American Bar Association (ABA) sees boutiques as major players in the 21st Century law practice environment as the large law/medium sized firm model plateaus as preferred law practice mode.[24]

Gig economy lawyers and legal services professionals don’t recruit at “speed dates”. They find like-minded professionals through networks of curated professional associations. Click into this link at the LLM Professional Career Launcher [25] for an introduction to more than 20 P2P curated professional associations that are populated by lawyers who operate in the 21stCentury new economy “opportunity market”. Click into this link at the LLM Professional Career Launcher [26] for testimonials of graduates from UK law schools who, I counselled on discovering their passion and aligned it with legal services career aspirations. I then referred them to the best fit P2P professional association and equipped them with the tools to recruit lawyers whose careers were aligned with their career goals to open professional career doors for them. To reverse engineer the lyrics of the popular Roy Orbison hit song, Working for the Man, [27] these aren’t career entry legal services providers that who “have to pick up their feet – because they’ve got a deadline to meet – Cause you’re working for the man”. They’ve positioned themselves to manage their professional life in a manner that enables them to leverage their passion and professional aspirations into a career that adds value to their personal life and life-style preferences.

How to Reverse Engineer Recruitment and Open Legal Services Career Doors in the 21stCentury New Economy Professional Services Market 

The Professional Career Launcher has designed

“PASS 21ST Century LLM Pathway”

Program to teach you how to “PASS” and “Soar

P = PASSION – Discover and/or revisit your PASSION.

A= ASPIRATION – Link Your Passion with an ASPIRATION.

S= Skills – What are the SKILLS you have that can be the foundation for your aspiration?

S = Soar – Relate and Equate your choice of Career Success with

Doing Well!

Doing Good!

Making a Contribution

[1] Diane Mulcahy, The Gig Economy. New York. American Management Association (AMA). (2017) at P.18

[2] Ritu Bhasin, The Authenticity Principle, Toronto. Melanin Press. (2017)

[3] David B. Wilkins and Maria Jose Esteban, The Re-Emergence of the Big Four in Law. Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession The Practice Volume 2, Issue 2. January 2016.

[4] http://www.cmc-canada.c





[9] Gillian K. Hadfield. Rules for a Flat World. Why Humans Invented Law and How to Reinvent it for a Complex Global Economy. New York. Oxford University Press. (2017).

[10] Gillian K. Hatfield, Law Schools Letting Students Down. Habeas Fixes. (Sept. 20th 2017).

[11] Reid Hoffman and Ben Cashocha, the start-up of YOU. New York. Crown Business Random House. (2012) at P.6

[12] Heidi K. Gardner, Smart Collaboration. Boston. Harvard University Press. (2016) at P59.

[13] Supra 10.

[14] Graham Lowe and Frank Graves. Redesigning Work. A Blueprint for Canada’s Well Being and Prosperity. Toronto. Rotman-UTP Publishing (2017) at P.78.

[15] Ibid at P. 80

[16] Supra 11 at P.30

[17] Supra 5 at P. 143

[18] Supra 1 at P.30

[19] Supra 1 at P.74


[21] Arun Sundararajan, The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism. Cambridge. MIT Press. (2016)

[22] Supra 1 at P. 122.


[24] › … › Law Practice Management › Law Firm Marketing





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