First impressions are critical, and when a potential lateral attorney candidate talks with Marjorie McFarlane Lucas, Fennemore’s Director of Lateral Recruiting, the interaction is always memorable. McFarlane has a passion and enthusiasm for her work, and she’s committed her career to making law firms better places to work for all people. Marjorie is also well-versed in leadership and client development, diversity and inclusion, and mentoring and coaching to advance the careers of our attorneys.
We recently had the pleasure of talking with Marjorie about the current landscape of legal recruiting, as well as her life in the legal profession.
You have your finger on the pulse of the legal industry. Post-pandemic, some AmLaw 100 firms are offering 200K to starting associates! What should lateral candidates know about today’s job market – as well as students currently in law school?
That is such a wonderful compliment, thank you. I have been in this industry for over twenty years and it’s so exhilarating for me to discover hidden talent at the genesis of their career. Yes, post-pandemic has ushered in an explosion of salary increases. And, kudos to all the brilliant first-year associates who successfully went through OCI (On-Campus Interviewing) and were able to secure these positions with AmLaw 100 firms. Recruiting top talent for those coveted spots is incredibly competitive.
So, for all those entry-level candidates who made it through OCI, got the job, and landed at their dream firm, hey, MASSIVE CONGRATS and good luck! If you think about what’s happening, this is truly a big win for entry-level attorneys who are just fresh out of law school and they are already maximizing their earnings. Now, concerning associates who are interested in making a lateral move in today’s market, they should be aware that lateral recruiting is entirely different from interviewing at OCI. They are probably bombarded daily with calls and emails from recruiters. Before returning any call, first make sure that you are ready emotionally and practically; consider what you want for your next role, have a goal in mind and make a list of jobs to explore; do your research on jobs and employers; network (both internally and externally); spend adequate time on your resume, PROOFREAD; keep in mind that laterals are being hired for their skill set and that they integrate successfully into the firm. Remember, no firm wants to hire a lateral that does not work out.
At the moment, there is a major demand for transactional attorneys. Everyone is looking for that mid-level corporate associate and some AmLaw 100 firms are willing to pay top dollars both for starting salaries as well as sign-on bonuses for them. These excessive starting salaries and pay increases do not apply to all practice areas and law firms, again, do your due diligence, and this would be a good time to review all those messages and emails from prospective recruiters and select who you want to work with. My advice is to work with someone that you connect with and feel truly understands your objectives and will successfully coach you and help you find the most ideal firm for your career.
What sets a candidate apart from the rest – and what do you look for in a Fennemore attorney?
Great question! I’m always impressed by candidates who at minimum took the time to do their research about our firm and the practice group they are interested in joining. I’m also curious to learn what that candidate will be bringing to the table, and of course, their intangible skills.
What I look for in a prospective Fennemore attorney is someone who exhibits the following qualities: high-achievers, good judgment, passion for the job, compassion for clients, self-motivated, driven with an entrepreneurial spirit.
You’ve long been active in diversity and inclusion efforts at law firms, and you were an early proponent for the recognition that Juneteenth so justly deserves. What does it mean to you now that Juneteenth is our newest national holiday?
Can we just take a moment to celebrate the fact that Juneteenth is now a Federal Holiday! Bravo to Congress for making this happen.
DE&I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) is in my soul, it’s a part of who I am, and it fuels my role and responsibilities as a talent scout; the explosion of interests in the DE&I space is truly remarkable, and the competition is stiff and exciting; we’re all looking for purple squirrels, but unlike most, I’m willing to go to the moon to find them and positively increase our Firm’s impact in the DE&I space.
Who is your hero – or the person who has had the biggest impact on your life?
My momma is my SHERO! She made what seemed impossible possible, and instilled in me the idea at an early age that I can do anything if I believe. To this day, no matter what obstacle I encounter, I hear her voice in my head coaching me through the situation.
Yep, my momma is my SUPERSHERO!
Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn – and how did you pick up the pieces and move forward?
My former CEO and I worked incredibly hard to land a major client. We secured the account, and our first recruiting request came from headquarters in Chicago at the close of business on the Friday before a long weekend for 100 -150 contract attorneys with a 24-hour turnaround. Yep, you read that correctly. At the time, I was the Head of Recruiting and in charge of all US offices, and after reaching out to my team of recruiters I was able to connect with one recruiter who was about a block from her home.
I ordered a car to pick her up and bring her back to the office; we worked late into the evening and was able to lock in about 75 attorneys to start immediately; I updated the client and inquired if they were open to us ramping up the remaining 25-50 attorneys the following day; to which I was told yes.
This was the first time that I did not meet a deadline and although I was disappointed, I learned a couple of lessons such as: never hesitate when it’s time to act; teamwork gives life to the dream; good things don’t come easy, although we didn’t meet the initial request, I ended up managing that particular account for that client for over ten years until I left the firm.
What’s your go-to Karaoke song?
GOSH, there are so MANY! So, the first two that come to mind are: Dancing Queen by ABBA and Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean!
What would you tell your younger self – or the advice you’d give to students today who are perhaps considering a career in the legal profession?
If you can imagine, when I was in High School, a college counselor told me not to apply to a University that I was interested in attending, I applied, got in with a free ride, and chose not to attend; don’t let anyone ever tell you your dreams are out of reach, PERIOD!
You actually completed your first marathon during the pandemic, while most of us were in couch-lock mode? Talk about your lifestyle regime in regard to staying healthy – mentally, emotionally and physically.
Oh man, that was the most physically challenging activity I’ve ever done and it was worth it. I read somewhere that every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding a disease or fighting it, and that stayed with me. Every day, I consciously put my mental, emotional and physical health first, and these are not up for negotiation.
In a nutshell, I practice self-care, daily meditation, eat clean and I train lean.
What are you reading, listening to, and currently watching or streaming?
Reading: A Promised Land by Barack Obama and Thou Shall Prosper, Ten Commandments for Making Money by Rabbi Daniel Lapin.
Listening to: Music satisfies my soul, every day I listen to some of my favorites, Bob Marley, Tina Turner, Biggie Smalls, George Michael, Prince, Whitney Houston, just to name a few.
Currently Streaming: So, I went to undergraduate at Chatham College, in Pittsburgh ,PA and I just finished watching Mare of Eastown, that was beyond excellent! And, if you can imagine, I only just discovered The Handmaid’s Tale in 2020, and I’m completely obsessed and I am getting ready to watch the new season and of course with the Olympics this year, I am and will be watching all those incredible athletes whenever I can.
Okay, you and your husband are throwing a lavish dinner party. Name the three people – from any time in human history – who you’d invite.
I’d often thought what my answer would be if I’m ever asked this question, and in January the list changed for the first time, so it here goes: Cleopatra; Kamala Harris, first woman, first Black and first South Asian American to become Vice President. The highest-ranking woman in US political history, and; My Momma, my very own SHERO!
Here’s to Marjorie and all of the allied legal professionals who so positively and profoundly impact Fennemore’s culture.
We’re also growing – and hiring! If you’re ready to take your legal career to the next level, please contact our team today.