Recruitment agents hardly do anything other than send CVs – why should we pay you?
in Careers Advice, Employers, Legal Profession

Recruitment agents hardly do anything other than send CVs – why should we pay you?

Today we had an email from a law firm who owe us a reasonable amount of money and following a letter before action we received a detailed response from one of the directors at the solicitors firm explaining his understanding of the fee and how it should be paid. Part of this explanation and discussion included the statement that our company had not done very much at all really other than provide a CV, and he had recruited not even remembering who had supplied him with the CV, implying that the recruitment agency (i.e. us) had not exactly done much work in order to justify being paid.

This is a common issue and I’m sure one that consultants in a whole range of different businesses experience all the time. As we tend to charge fairly hefty lump sum fees at times, and all the client ever sees in most circumstances is a few emails and a couple of CVs, plus interview arranging and any negotiations on salary and job offers, it’s easy to think that the recruitment agency has done nothing at all to deserve the payment they are now asking for.

So what do recruitment consultants do that justifies payment? Nothing, I suspect a lot of people reading this will think! Here is a brief outline as to what happens when a vacancy comes into our offices.

We post vacancies across our network, external job board networks, log it as a vacancy and send it to our database of candidates. We also check our connections on a range of sites including LinkedIn. In some recruitment companies they have employees who spend their entire day doing one of these tasks, particularly the maintenance of the candidate database, just because it is so important and the one piece of data that has more value placed on it than anything else in the business.

Our candidate database has around 11-12,000 solicitors and legal executives on it, and has been constantly expanding since we started in business in 2000. The vast majority of our placements come from our database because the vast majority of candidates cannot be found anywhere else. If you don’t believe this statement just sign up to one of the various job boards that has a CV bank (eg Simply Law Jobs, TotallyLegal, Indeed, Reed etc..). Do a search on there and see how many CVs you can view for specific job types in your area. The number will probably be quite limited.

Most of our work is spent dealing with candidate enquiries and client communications that do not lead anywhere, or even slightly get us anywhere near to generating a fee. This is because the other part of a recruitment agency’s job is to build goodwill with clients and candidates, so that when something does happen both sides trust us. The vast majority of this is unpaid and this work is factored into any fee that a recruitment agency charges.

Once a job is listed as live we very often spend a considerable amount of time dealing with candidate queries, most of which will be from candidates who are utterly useless, completely irrelevant to the job and to be quite frank, a complete waste of time. However as recruitment agents we are unable to tell anyone they are a complete waste of time, and of course we are regularly pleasantly surprised when candidates we thought have been unsuitable have gone on and managed to secure jobs we did not expect them to!

Quite a lot of time is spent dealing with work that is non-billable, and hours not recoverable because of the investment we are making in future placements and future work. For a vacancy involving a standard requirement say for a 3 year PQE conveyancing solicitor in London, we will probably get between 5 and 10 enquiries and applications, but out of these 5 to 10 enquiries and applications probably one or two of these will be suitable. We may well find we get 5 to 10 enquiries from our own database as well, and although a good number of these will be suitable it’s very often recruitment the other way round, i.e. we have to sell the candidates the vacancy because often the candidates off our database are in a fortunate position of not actually needing to change jobs.

So by the time the client sees a CV from a candidate it’s likely we would have done around 5 to 6 hours work just on that particular vacancy and related enquiries alone. That does not include all the work we do surrounding the candidate database that fuels the source of CVs that we supply.

Of course it could be said that if a low cost solution was out there it may well trump the need to have to pay one off recruitment fees, and save firms considerable sums of money in the process. As coincidence would have it, we offer one such solution which is! If you still don’t think recruitment consultants offer good value for money you can also use the legal job board – post vacancies for unlimited time for just £50. For further details please visit the websites.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at