Legal Marketing Market: Eva Wisnik, President & Founder, Wisnik Career Enterprises, Inc.

by Catherine Hausman on June 29, 2016

Wisnik Eva 2016“If you are feeling uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone, you are very likely to grow and learn!”

Eva Wisnik is the grand dame of law firm BD/marketing talent placement. Eva founded Wisnik Career Enterprises (WCE) in 1996 after serving in-house as Director of Recruitment and Training for Schulte Roth & Zabel and at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

Eva has worked with more than 120 law firms over the past 20 years, including 74 of the Am Law 100. She has placed many of our esteemed colleagues in their current roles.  Eva brings a practical and empathetic approach to working with professionals who want to explore new opportunities, having done so as a founder and entrepreneur.

Eva maintains a blog, Wisnik’s Wisdom, on topics related to careers, getting a job, promotions, changing jobs and other areas of interest. Links to some of her blog posts are included throughout this interview.

In addition to representing candidates for a wide variety of legal marketing positions, Eva also leads training programs for attorneys and CMOs on topics that range from “Interviewer Training” to “Business Development Skills.” She recently was the featured speaker at the chapter’s CMO SIG, giving an in-depth presentation on “How to Hire for Cultural Fit”— determining if a candidate is a good cultural fit for a position.

One of her key themes was the importance of “Professional Presence in Law Firms,” a topic she expanded on in a recent blog post. (Professional Presence in Law Firms: What Does it Look Like?) Eva has brought a professional presence to legal marketing recruiting for 20 years now.  She shared some of her thoughts about her expertise and our profession with Catherine Hausman.

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Q:   How did you arrive at recruiting as a career?

A:   Before starting my own business, I was head of attorney recruiting at Schulte Roth & Zabel and before that I worked at Cadwalader. I also have an MBA in Marketing.

Q: Your career is now focused on career changes, not an easy decision for most people.  How difficult was it for you to make the change from a comfortable job doing recruiting in-house to an independent recruiter?

A: When I started Wisnik Career Enterprises in 1996, I wrote in a journal every day for six months.  Most of my entries began with “I am really scared. What was I thinking when I quit my nice job?”  I gained confidence as time went on, particularly from Brené Brown’s inspiring book, “Daring Greatly.”  She wrote that “the greatest growth and opportunity exist when we allow ourselves to be OK with uncertainty and vulnerability.”

Q: You obviously followed that advice. Wisnik Career Enterprises celebrated its 20th Anniversary in March and has become an established part of the legal marketing landscape.  Congratulations!  That’s an impressive milestone!

A: Thank you!

Q: What is the secret to your longevity in a highly competitive business?

A: Our client focus, and the belief that building trust-filled relationships with clients by putting their needs first pays off tremendously long term. Reputation is key, being well-known in the industry for integrity and for bringing high quality candidates to the table.

Q: Do you focus on retained search, contingency or a combination?

A: We do only contingency searches. I promised myself when I started the company that I would only take on searches we felt excited about finding talent for and could sincerely “sell’ to a candidate. I only want to get paid when we deliver the right candidate. Focusing on contingency searches allows us to operate with the integrity and values we believe in.

Q: How do you know if an opportunity is the right fit for a candidate?

A:  For me, it’s not only delivering candidates who have the right presence, experience and competencies, but it is equally important that they fit the culture.

Q: You recently presented to the NYLMA CMO Sig on “How to Hire for Cultural Fit.” Can you elaborate on that?

A: The presentation provided CMOs with some tools to determine if a candidate will be happy and productive in their culture. Good job fit comes from hiring people with the right skills, experience and competencies (you can interview for those), but the other part of the puzzle is values – work values. For instance, somebody who really wants to be challenged at work or likes belonging to a team; or someone who is extremely collaborative. If you find someone who is a good values fit, then it works on both sides.

(The Importance of Cultural Fit)

Q: How do you know when it’s time to make a job change?

A: When you will be doing mostly the same work one year from now and will not be growing and learning.  (When is it time to look for a new job?

Q: Can/should you develop a relationship with a recruiter before you start looking?

A: Yes, if the recruiter’s approach is to help you find the right role from a career development perspective.

Q: Is it wrong to work with multiple recruiters in a job search?

A: I think two is fine, but when a candidate says I am working with four or five different recruiters, they are no longer a top priority for us because chances are that their resume has been sent everywhere!

Q: What are the advantages of working with a recruiter as opposed to going it alone?

A: A recruiter who knows the market and has trust-filled relationships with decision makers will be more effective at helping you to get hired. Also, it’s easier and more compelling for someone else to “sell” you than for you to sell yourself. A good recruiter will know the market and can help identify firms that are likely to be a good fit.  They will also position you for the job by writing a compelling cover letter and coaching you to present your experience and competencies effectively in an interview.

Q: What advantages does Wisnik Career Enterprises offer candidates?

A: We asked our clients that question in a survey that we prepared for our 20th anniversary. They mentioned our “deep industry knowledge;” they also highlighted our “customized approach and coaching” and “established relationships with firms.”

Q: Advice on how a candidate should handle the initial round of interviews?

A: Come prepared, having done research on the firm and being able to answer “Why this firm?” “Why this role?”  Be ready to talk about the achievements you are most proud of.

Q: Common mistakes? And how to recover from them?

A: Not being able to answer a challenging question. Introverts especially are not as comfortable speaking off the cuff. That’s okay, you can absolutely follow-up with a thoughtful answer in your thank you email, for example “There are a few things I wanted to mention…” (Biggest Mistakes Made in Interviews)

Q:  What are some of the top things a candidate should find out before making a move?

A:  A little self-assessment goes a long way. “What you want to do more of, that you haven’t had a chance to do?” And “What don’t you want to do anymore?” You can’t get everything you want, but if you have clarity, you’ll know where to expand your skill set and focus. Self-knowledge also helps in the interview. Saying “I have done everything and I can do everything” doesn’t sell.

Q: How can you help?

A: I prep every candidate for every interview. Even very senior people need pointers on how to present themselves.

Q: What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the field since you got started?

A: Departments have grown tremendously in size and the focus is now on business development, whereas 20 years ago most positions were in marketing and communications/PR.  These areas have been steady, but have not seen the same explosive growth as BD.

Q: What will the legal marketing department of the future look like?

A: I hope they will be more focused on business analytics and have team members who understand pricing and metrics.

Q: What is the new CMOs’ mandate?  How do you measure success?

A: I think tenure is one measurement of success.  Another measurement is having team members you feel confident putting in front of partners because they have the expertise and professionalism to inspire confidence.

Q: How do you teach client service to new recruits?

A: Client service orientation is so important in my own company. During orientation with my interns, I share my pet peeves and the first one is, “Never respond to anybody with the phrase ‘no problem.’”

Q:  What’s the best professional advice you ever got?

A: “If you are feeling uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone, you are very likely to grow and learn!”

Q: In other words, “lean in.” Aside from Sheryl Sandberg —any other role models?

A: I like Elon Musk, he’s also an immigrant and he created something even when people didn’t believe in it. I admire his courage. And I drive a Tesla.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A:  I love spending time at the Jersey Shore with my family.  It’s my “happy place!”

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