Legal Marketing Market – Kate Potters (COO, Glenmont Group)

by Catherine Hausman on January 26, 2016

Potters Kate 2016sKate Potters is a co-founder and head of the Law Firm Management Practice of Glenmont Group, an award-winning executive search firm that handles permanent and interim placement at AmLaw200 law firms, Fortune 500 corporations, and start-up enterprises across the country.  Glenmont is known for building a true partnership with its clients and, for the third year in a row, readers of The National Law Journal ranked Glenmont as a top legal recruiter in the U.S.

Ms. Potters started Glenmont Group in 2001 along with her husband and business partner Michael Potters. Kate is responsible for leading the firm’s senior-level, professional management searches in positions that include Marketing, Business Development, Human Resources, Professional Development, Finance and Firm Administration. The firm’s search services range from direct hire placements, including mid- to senior-level and executive search, contract and interim staffing.

Kate’s 15 years of experience and keen understanding of the unique nature of law firms have made her highly sought after in her field. She has made numerous senior level placements for top law firms throughout the United States, helping to shape our industry through the people who lead it.  Catherine Hausman spoke with Kate to uncover the secrets for success in today’s competitive marketplace.

Q: Glenmont has a sterling reputation for client service and integrity.  How do you partner with clients to complete challenging searches in a highly competitive market?

We try to be highly responsive and communicative. You really hit the nail on the head when you used the term “partner with clients.” We are in this for the long-term and are proud to help our clients build talented teams and do well. We are loyal and discrete which our clients appreciate. We do our best work when clients take the time to meet with us early on in the process and keep us up-to-date on all developments.

We treat everyone with respect and professionalism. That is ingrained in our business model, but it’s also who we are. We often find ourselves in the position of career coach. We do our best to offer industry insights and helpful job-hunting advice. An example of this counsel happened with a CMO who came back to me and said, “You didn’t find me a job but took the time to talk with me at a difficult time in my life. Now, I’m in a position to hire. I like the way you do business and want you to help me build my team.”  We learned that treating people with respect and dignity is not only the right thing to do, it’s good business!

Q: What kind of searches do you handle, primarily?

We specialize in mid-to-senior level searches (Managers to C-suite) but as a full service firm, we strive to meet a wide range of our clients’ hiring needs through offering contingent, retained and temporary recruiting solutions. If, for instance, a client needs a temp/contract person for a CRM rollout, special project or long-term leave replacement, we’ll find people for that.

Q: What did you do prior to founding Glenmont in 2001?

Before founding the firm, I worked in the education field for a company recruiting teachers from other parts of the world to work in the U.S.

Q: Was that good training for your current role?

Yes it was. It’s all about finding people who have the skills and background that the client needs and making sure that the person is a good cultural fit as well.

Q: What is the value of working with a recruiter?

A good recruiter acts like a go-between, and assures that the process runs smoothly. We benefit our clients by time saved and providing vetted candidates. We’ve done the first round of interviews and provide the client with information beyond the resume. Good recruiters know each firm’s culture – whether it is a Midwestern firm, a boutique or a global powerhouse.  Chances are we know, or might even have placed its CMO. We are vetting for personality and cultural fit – which is more art than science.  Most importantly, we are a great client advocate. In the end, we want to make sure everyone is happy.

Q: As a career coach and confidant to law firm leaders can you share some best practices for the search process?

  • Be very clear of what you are looking for in terms of job requirements, cultural fit, and education. Once this is conveyed, a good recruiter will be able to find the right person.
  • Have a detailed conversation, preferably in-person, with your recruiter so that he or she has a good understanding of the opening.
  • Ask the recruiter for intel on the recent compensation trends-the recruiter knows the marketplace. This way, you’ll be in a position to make an acceptable offer. Strong candidates are highly sought after and are getting multiple offers.
  • Streamline the interview process. Law firms can lose great candidates if the process slows down or stops at some point.
  • The past couple of years have become a candidate-driven market. The winning firms are selling themselves and the position, once they’ve found the right person.
  • For low to mid-level searches, it’s ok to work on contingency with a few search firms. However, for director level and above, a dedicated, exclusive arrangement makes the most sense. Senior-level positions demand a highly collaborative, consultative approach and are more relationship driven in nature. They are typically, highly sensitive and discreet. The firm needs to stay in control of the process and the best way to do that is to work with one recruiting firm.

Q: Can you give us a snapshot of the legal marketing market?

Law firms have become increasingly focused on the bottom line, requiring professional managers and administrators who often play a key role in shaping and implementing firm strategy. They must be capable of identifying cost-saving and revenue generating initiatives while maintaining a high-level of customer service to the partners.

Firms see the value of hiring “high-value” professionals to lead key initiatives in Business Development, Competitive Intelligence and Knowledge Management. We’ve also seen a shift in our clients’ willingness to hire from outside the legal industry. This broadens the talent pool and brings professionals to the law firms who have a fresh perspective.

Q:  How do you find a “quality” recruiter? There seem to be a lot of them out there!

Whether you’re looking to hire or find your next position, it’s important to work with recruiters you can trust. It’s a good idea to ask colleagues with whom they have had positive experiences. You can look at the firm’s company page and individual profiles on LinkedIn. People who have been doing this for a while have market intelligence and great connections.  Search firms with a long history have deeper relationships and a better understanding of the marketplace. Experience counts.

Q: What does a typical day look like?

As an entrepreneur, I can honestly say that there is no typical day. I do spend a fair amount of time on the phone and on the computer but then other days, I’m out of the office attending a conference or meeting with clients.

On an average day, I am working with clients, interviewing candidates, meeting clients, running the day-to-day operations, doing business development and coaching my team. It’s not a 9-5 job; I’m sending emails at 6 in the morning and speaking with candidates late in the evening. We work nationally and need to make ourselves available. I will say this: it’s never boring!

Q: Why law do firms hire recruiters?

Most of our clients simply don’t have the time or expertise to sift through 100+ resumes. One COO I spoke with recently said their first round for a recent search included 19 candidates. We are proactive – and can present clients with a fuller range of possibilities that includes candidates who are out looking because they want a new challenge or are dissatisfied with their current position. The biggest benefit to working with recruiters is that we identify and recruit great people who are not looking at the legal marketing job boards because they have their heads down and are working hard, not thinking about the next thing. We typically present three candidates at a time and if those don’t work out, we go back to the drawing board.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of the job?

A recruiter is almost like a mediator.  You are working for the client but you want to make sure the candidate is happy. It’s a bit of a dance and a lot of finesse at the end.

Q: What do you expect from candidates you work with?

One reason I like working in this industry is that most of the people I work with are honest, professional and easy to talk to.

  • When interviewing for a position, be committed to the process and stay in touch with your recruiter. A good recruiter is your best ally and will offer you insights on the people, the firm and the position.
  • If a recruiter secures you an interview, go, even if you are hesitant. I can’t tell you how many times I have sent someone on an interview and once that person learns about the firm and gets to know the people, his or her outlook changes and he or she is very happy in the end.
  • Before interviewing for an opportunity in another city, make sure that your family or significant other is on board and that a move makes sense for everyone.
  • It’s ok to bow out gracefully during the interview process. However, it is best done early in the game. No one wants to waste the time of the C-Suite and partners.
  • Be consistent and upfront with your requirements in terms of compensation, title etc. People need to know what your expectations are and don’t like surprises at the end.

Q: Some people are not as adept at negotiating offers as others. Over the past decade, have you noticed a change?

Years ago, it was not uncommon for candidates, when discussing salary to say, “Well, I currently make $75k but…” Today, people are more knowledgeable about their value in the market and more confident in negotiations.

On the other hand, some people are not afraid to overstep. I recently worked with a young man who was moving from a small firm to a much larger firm and wanted a significant increase.  We coached him to help him understand that if you ask for too much it could hurt you in the long run — the hiring firm might rescind the offer, or they might resent the demand. This is the beginning of a new business relationship and you don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

You don’t always have to say “I want more.” Sometimes you can just graciously accept a great offer.

Q: What do you do when you’re not working?

I am a career coach with United Way of Northern New Jersey where I work with people who have hit a patch of turbulence in their lives. Some of their personal stories are heartbreaking. I help prepare them for interviews so they can hold their heads high, ask the right questions and present their best selves in the hope of a new beginning.

Q: Is it better for your career to stay in one place or to move around?  

When we started in this business in 2001, if anyone had held more than one job in five years they were seen as a job hopper, but now we have a much more mobile work force and three years is acceptable. But you should have a good reason to move. Oftentimes, I’ll talk to people and hear that they are getting paid at the top end, they like their boss, and it sounds like a good situation, so I’ll ask, “Why would you want to leave?” Their reasoning should be valid; otherwise, we don’t see the point of us moving forward.

If they are looking for upward mobility, more control, more involvement, broader responsibility or a larger firm with more growth opportunity — those are all valid reasons to consider a change.

Everyone should look at where they are and seize every opportunity in the job that they are in. Whatever you are doing – be in the top 10 percent. Ask for more responsibility and seek out skills development or training.  It can’t hurt to have the ability to read a profit and loss statement, create a budget, understand analytics and manage people – gain that expertise, as well as find a way to enhance revenues, save the firm money and quantify your successes.

Q:  What qualities do you think are essential for law firm marketing/business development leaders? Legal Marketing and Business Development professionals need to be confident and able to think on their feet. The people who advance are great managers who can work with senior management and partners on strategy. They are viewed as trusted advisors and coaches. They have a deep understanding of the firm’s capabilities and strengths and know how to brand the firm in the marketplace and develop opportunities that drive revenue.

Q: As the mother of four children, one of whom has followed you into the family business, how do you find work/life balance?

Most of all, I enjoy spending time with my family. We have a house in Upstate New York where we like to go hiking and skiing together. When my children want to go see a movie or just grab a cup of coffee together, it’s the highlight of my day. We have a Golden Doodle and I find taking the dog for a long walk in the evening is a great way to relax and unwind.

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