Vijay Luthra is drawn to the strategic nature of legal recruiting, and has built a name for himself in the space through taking a keen interest in his clients’ business and career goals. He is innately very curious and that attracts him to learning about both new and arcane areas of legal specializations, which helps build trust with ‘rainmakers’ and law firm leaders alike, who appreciate his savvy and integrity as he partners closely with them on executing some of their most ambitious plans for growth.

As the industry shifts this year from the effects of the pandemic, Vijay is keeping pace with the busiest firms, providing strategic guidance as the lateral market heats up. A managing director at legal recruiting powerhouse Lippman Jungers, Vijay has been a leading recruiter for over a decade. 

Lawdragon: Will you please describe for our readers the types of services you provide within the legal industry and to whom?

Vijay Luthra: Sure. Because I work for a premier legal recruiting agency with a client base made up of the country’s most elite law firms, my work focuses on partnering closely with our clients to develop strategies from a more creative/consulting perspective to help them accomplish their most important strategic hiring goals. Examples of our work include searching for leading partners with law practices that could transformationally impact our clients ability to service their own clients, or grow the base of law firm’s own business, such as when a firm wants to make a strong push to grow their New York-based private equity practice by hiring a highly visible and reputable turnkey groups out of another firm.

We also have considerable experience assisting clients with opening new offices in various geographic markets, which has resulted in meaningful growth for our client in each office we helped them to open.  And in addition to the satisfaction and financial rewards stemming from the successful opening of a new office, the ‘additional perks’ can be great too for example, one of my partners is gifted a Michael Jordan autographed basketball every time he helps a client open a new office! He has three basketballs so far.

LD: How did you first become interested in legal recruiting?

VL: It really struck me about two years into being in this profession. At the time, for most of my career I was largely “cold calling” and working on back-office tasks, and less client facing work. But then someone, who would go on to be a mentor, took me to a meeting he had scheduled with a client (he only took me because the two other colleagues who were supposed to join him called out sick that day). It was during this meeting that I realized how involved our company really was with the law firm in terms of hammering out a recruitment strategy and identifying the best path to accomplish it. It all felt complex and sophisticated, which I found very appealing. That insight really then spurred me on to dive into the new search that I was now on and learn all the background behind why that particular search was strategic to the firm and how to develop an approach to be the most effective advocate for the firm and opportunity. With the help of a few people who really invested in my success, things sort of took off and I have never looked back, and now it’s hard to really see myself doing anything other than this.

LD: What do you like about working with lawyers?

VL: I think most legal recruiters would agree that one of the biggest draws to this profession is working closely with some of the most educated, informed, and accomplished attorneys in the world. Legal recruiters tend to learn a lot about the complex, timely, consequential and thorny nature of the work their clients do, and to do their jobs effectively recruiters often need to stay informed and up to date on issues impacting our clients and candidates. That aspect of our profession can be very satisfying and scary. For example, to better acquaint myself with a remote corner of international trade law (call it “CFIUS” for short), I read a book by a leading partner in this space [“Skating on Stilts: Why We Aren’t Stopping Tomorrow’s Terrorism” by Stewart Baker] that was very helpful in sketching out policy issues. That understanding helped contribute to my successful placement of a Band 1 ranked CFIUS partner not long after finishing the book.

LD: What partner, can you share?

VL: Sure, Farhad Jalinous, to White & Case.

LD: Looking back at your career so far, what would you say is the most interesting matter you’ve worked on for a law firm?

VL: There have been lots of interesting engagements I’ve worked on in my career, and that makes it hard to pick just one standout experience. That said, working with one of the largest law firms in the world, Baker McKenzie, to help grow its New York City office to a more meaningful size was, and continues to be, an interesting experience. They are the first client I led efforts on to establish and deepen a relationship with, which is now going on strong for over four years. And it’s also very satisfying to then be singled out for my efforts by the client as being an important part of why the firm has been highly successful in accomplishing its goal of building out the New York office (not to mention the gift baskets, Tiffany’s presents for my daughter, great advice on restaurants in Milan and trips to coffee plantations in Nicaragua!).

LD: Has the pandemic been impacting the market in a significant way, from your viewpoint?

VL: Yes, there are a few surprising trends in the market that have resulted in a lot of work of late. First, there is a higher degree of support and commitment from a larger number of firms to make larger investments than they historically have towards recruiting laterals, and at much greater compensation levels. Second, by now firms have had enough time to see the impact the Covid pandemic has had on their financial budgets, and a number of firms have emerged from this to be very busy, with some even having record-breaking years. Third, attorneys focusing on certain specializations, such as private equity, continue to be in very high demand, and demand for attorneys with expertise in specializations where there hasn’t been high demand in recent years, like restructuring, has spiked.