Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Haggling for the sake of it - Recruitment Agency Fees


Haggling for the sake of it - what's your best price?

I recently took a call from a senior partner of a small niche commercial practice, who rang me up because he was looking to recruit a number of senior commercial lawyers and wanted our assistance. We spent about 20 minutes on the phone with discussions around his firm, his firm’s aspirations, future plans, recruitment needs and a chat about how we could help. We went through all of this before he asked about fees. I explained to him that our fees were 18% (see our website for a full breakdown).

He informed me that his firm had enjoyed a long lasting relationship with a recruiter who had charged him a lot less and that he was hoping to emulate this with a future deal.

I explained that our fees were usually non-negotiable and that we worked on a set rate for everyone regardless of salary or seniority of the staff being recruited. I also suggested he stuck with the other recruiter as the rate (12%) is very good indeed! For a list of selected legal recruitment agency fees please click here:

Fee Haggling

The senior partner seemed very surprised at this and a bit of email correspondence followed on with the basic premise being that as a recruitment agency we ought to be prepared to haggle on our fees, because this is expected. We politely declined and I referred him to a couple of our competitors who I know charge standard fees higher than ours but also very often are prepared to be haggled downwards to get to more competitive levels.

Over the years I’ve been in business I’ve started to learn, although it has taken me a long time, that if you have a fee that you charge, having carefully worked out the profit margins, costs of running the business etc then that will be the price. We do not negotiate for the sake of it (although we are always very supportive of legal aid firms).

I can see the senior partner’s point in this case because he is calling a recruitment consultant with the intention of offering them a long-lasting relationship in return for a reduced fee, but the reality of specialist legal recruitment is very often smaller sized clients (and most of ours are) will only use us once over a period of time. It is therefore it is unlikely that any reduction in our fee in most cases will benefit us in return for a higher number of vacancies. Particularly at the moment when we have plenty of vacancies in all areas of law but no candidates to fill them because of the effects of the pandemic.

Are Recruiters Like Estate Agents?

I suppose an analogy is where you look to sell a house through an estate agent. If there are 30 estate agents all offering exactly the same service without any difference at all and all with the same access to potential purchasers, then there would be no logic in going for the most expensive estate agent.

The estate agents on the market will be prepared to haggle on their fees because they are desperate or keen to get the business if they can see a benefit of selling the house. However this is rarely the case and there is of course a substantial difference between different estate agents. The estate agents with a national presence and a well established database and strong reputation will be able to command more of a fee than an estate agent just started out.

The same applies in the recruitment world – there are plenty of recruitment agencies out there, most of whom have access to various job boards, but most of whom do not have their own databases of candidates stretching back many years. Of course there are the well established agencies like Michael Page, Badenoch & Clark, the Sellick Partnership and G2 Legal, there are also lots of smaller ones who do not have the established database & reputation and are simply taking vacancies and posting them across job boards to see if they can attract any new applicants.

Database Access

We provide a specific service with access to our database of over 12,000 solicitors who have registered with us over the last 20 years. Whilst we also have access to job boards, including the Law Society Gazette and Reed, we don’t make most of our placements from this. The vast majority of our placements come from our candidate database from lawyers who have been registered with us for a number of years, as well as new candidates finding our websites and registering with us, or looking at specific jobs on our website. The same will apply to those of our competitors who have been around for quite a long time as well.

Bear this in mind when discussing fees with agencies – very often a discussion about fees is probably not the best way to start your relationship with a recruitment consultant, but instead to simply ask them to send you CVs. You may find that the agency who want to offer you a 'too good to be true' deal of 10% fees or similar will be more than happy to do so because they know the chance of actually finding a candidate using their limited database is going to be extremely low.. See what the recruitment agents have for you before you rule any out in terms of price – it doesn’t necessarily mean that a low fee charging recruitment agency is going to do a better job for you than a higher paid one.

 Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and a non-practising Solicitor. Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment provides online Legal Recruitment for Solicitors, Legal Executives, Licensed Conveyancers, Legal Cashiers, Fee Earners, Support Staff, Managers and Paralegals. Visit our Website to search our Vacancy Database.

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