Lauren Drake is a recovered lawyer with a firm belief that a career should be satisfying, or else it’s time to make a move. After practicing telecommunications law for four years, she moved into management consulting at McKinsey & Co., where she spent over 16 years learning the ins and outs of doing smart business.
Now, as a partner at Macrae (formerly Mlegal Group), Drake works with partners, groups and counsel on their career paths, placing them at law firms that make the most sense for both parties. Approximately half of her work involves helping partners move from one law firm to another, while the other half involves assisting senior government lawyers transition to the private sector.
Drake, who is based in Washington, D.C., is a member of the Lawdragon Global 100 Leaders in Legal Strategy & Consulting.
Lawdragon: What drew you to partner recruiting?
Lauren Drake: I have been involved in recruiting for many years, but partner recruiting is a very special type of recruiting in that it is candidate-focused, rather than client-focused. Although our fees are paid by law firms, we act as representatives for our candidates and create a job market for them.
LD: Do you enjoy the work?
Drake: I absolutely love my job. Due to the candidate-focused nature of our work, I have a unique opportunity to help highly-accomplished senior professionals as they seek to achieve their career goals.
Job transitions are always stressful, no matter the reason for the change, no matter how well the search is going. I feel honored that I have the opportunity to advise and guide my candidates during this stressful period. I find it incredibly gratifying when I am able to help someone find an exciting new opportunity.
I have always loved my job, no matter what I have been doing, and if there were times when I didn't, I made a change! I have been very proactive about managing my own career and I want to help others do the same, because the personal satisfaction that comes from loving your job is tremendous.
LD: Are you seeing any trends in terms of partner moves these days?
Drake: Our law firm clients have always been interested in large group moves, but those groups were not that easy to find. While I would not say it is now easy, we are seeing a lot more large group movement. These moves tend to keep us very busy because they are more time-consuming and complex than "one-off" moves. You have to manage multiple partners' interests, and also multiple potential client conflicts.
LD: Did any experience from your undergraduate work push you towards a career in the law?
Drake: Yes – I was an English major and did not know what to do after graduation!! I had wanted to be a journalist but I pursued several internships during college and determined that was not the right fit for me. My father suggested law school, pointing out that I rarely lost an argument! Ultimately, I only practiced law for four years, but that led me to a long career at McKinsey & Company, which I loved, and eventually led me to my current job, which I also love.
LD: Did you imagine you would build this type of career for yourself back in law school?
Drake: I did always think I would eventually move to "the business side of things." I figured I would practice for a few years, then perhaps move in-house, then perhaps transition to the business side of a company. Instead, I wound up going to McKinsey & Company, and in that way I did indeed have a career in business, rather than law. Eventually transitioning to recruiting came out of discovering how much I enjoyed connecting people with opportunities, and also how much my enjoyment of my career had improved my quality of life.
LD: As someone who assists others in building fulfilling careers, can you walk us through your time at McKinsey and how you decided it was time to move on?
Drake: My entire experience at McKinsey was incredibly formative for me. I learned so much about business and also developed a highly analytical framework for problem-solving. When my children got a little older, I used my McKinsey analytical skills to take stock of my career, where I was, where I wanted to be in 10 years, etc. I developed a simple framework to evaluate what I loved about my job, and what I didn't love; where I excelled in my job, and where I was just "meeting expectations." Doing this analysis led me to conclude that recruiting would be a career that I would enjoy tremendously, and one that would also play to my strengths.
LD: Now you’re a partner at Macrae. Can you share some strategic plans for the firm in the coming months or years?
Drake: Our firm is in growth mode. We have grown very quickly but are very busy and looking to continue our current growth trajectory.
LD: How is Macrae differentiated from other legal recruiting shops?
Drake: Our firm is unique in that we focus exclusively on law firm partner recruiting. We are not trying to be all things to all people, but rather to focus on one area and do it really well. We also have a strong culture of sharing information, and have developed proprietary databases to make information-sharing easy, which means that our clients and candidates get the benefit of our whole firm, not just one recruiter.