Photo by Amy Cantrell

Fifteen years ago, Gary Miles was a passionate public school teacher and high school basketball coach. Today, he runs one of the top legal recruiting firms in the nation.

He was brought into the legal recruiting world by his uncle, founder of Alan Miles & Associates. Miles, who comes from generations of notable attorneys, dove into the practice headfirst and never looked back. Immediately, he began expanding to national legal searches – a strategy that would progress internationally when he founded his own firm, Miles Partner Placement, in 2015.

The firm matches group practices and individual partners with the right firm fit, simultaneously bolstering the strength of leading firms and finding homes for the nation’s top legal minds.

Over the course of his career, Miles has placed well over 100 partners at elite firms including Paul Weiss, Kirkland and Cooley and has opened multiple offices for firms like Orrick, Reed Smith and Brown Rudnick. Miles has been named a Lawdragon Global 100 Leader in Legal Strategy & Consulting two years running for his exceptional work shaping the careers of high-level lawyers.

Lawdragon: Can you describe the kinds of services Miles Partner Placement offers to lawyers and law firms?

Gary Miles: Miles Partner Placement is an elite legal search boutique that helps partner-level attorneys and practice groups find the most compelling fit for their practice, and works with Am Law 100, 200 and regional powerhouse firms nationwide and internationally who are looking to acquire top-tier talent in order to meet their strategic growth needs.

LD: I understand you first entered the legal recruiting industry due to your uncle, Alan Miles. Tell me a bit about that story.

GM: Right. I was recruited by my uncle, who was a pioneer in the legal recruiting industry in California. I had previously been an educator of at-risk youth and high school basketball coach in Compton and Watts. I found pretty early on that many of the skills I had developed in those lines of work really transferred and allowed me to be quite successful at the beginning of my career as a legal recruiter.

LD: Did you ever imagine you’d be in this line of work before he brought you on?

GM: I never imagined being involved with the legal industry in this way. During college, I considered going to law school and following in my father's footsteps as an elite trial attorney. He has been practicing in excess of 50 years and has been a Fellow of the American College of Trial Attorneys for more than 30 years.

During graduate school, I decided that I no longer wanted to go to law school. I ended up going to UCLA and obtaining a master’s degree in African American Studies and Sociolinguistic Anthropology. I really felt teaching public school would be where I could have my greatest impact. My love for basketball also led me to become a high school basketball coach for one of the more successful programs in California. By this time in my professional career, I thought that I might be an assistant basketball coach at some Division I university.

LD: Would you say your uncle acted as a mentor in those early years?

GM: Yes. Working with my uncle really helped me learn the ins and outs of the profession at a very early stage in my career.

LD: How has the recruiting industry changed since that early part of your career?

GM: When I first started, back in 2007, there were very few recruiters who truly recruited nationally – especially in California. When I joined Alan Miles & Associates, the team that was there pretty much had California covered, so it made a lot of sense to me to take our operation national. In the current market, when I speak with other recruiters in the industry, a much higher percentage of those folks are recruiting outside of what would have been considered their home markets or region 15 years ago.

Be as transparent and candid in communications as possible, whether you're looking to make a move for you and your team, or if you're a firm looking to acquire top-level talent. 

I also think that nowadays more firms are apt to involve their most trusted recruiting partners in helping them to identify and approach potential merger targets. When I facilitated Bingham McCutchen's acquisition of McKee Nelson in 2008/2009, very few recruiters had been involved in significant merger discussions. That had, for the most part, been solely the territory of law firm consultants.

LD: What have you enjoyed most about this type of work – particularly, what do you enjoy about working with lawyers?

GM: I really enjoy helping partners find an opportunity with a firm that allows them to both maximize their practice efficacy and financial reward for the hard work that they do.

Working with lawyers is quite natural for me, in that I come from three generations of practitioners on my father's side and two on my mother's. In fact, my maternal grandmother, Sylvia Livingston Bernstein, finished second in the second class at Columbia Law School that allowed women and was the student author on the Restatement of Property (the foundational legal document for both real estate and trust and estates law). She was also an Assistant Attorney General of New York State, appointed by Nelson Rockefeller and supervised by Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz. I guess you could say that working with lawyers is in my blood.

LD: That’s incredible. What made you decide to go out on your own when you started Miles Partner Placement a few years back?

GM: I decided to start my own company at the beginning of the remote work trend (predating the pandemic by five years). I saw that I could work closer to my family and provide my fellow recruiters and staff the same flexibility in ways that were innovative for the time but have since become a workplace standard.

I also had a vision of how I wanted to improve my practice. Since going out on my own, I have been able to establish a network of top recruiters around the world. We can collaborate on high-level deals to better serve our candidates and the firms we represent.

LD: How else do you feel you’ve made Miles Partner a unique recruiting firm?

GM: We feel that because of the longstanding national and international focus of our firm and the amount of critical intelligence we have across numerous key markets, we bring a built-in knowledge base that can be impactful for both our firm clients and any partner or group that we may represent. Additionally, because of the scope of my practice over my career and the relationships I have built at the top levels of leadership at many firms, we may have access that helps streamline a potential process and make it much more efficient and effective in terms of achieving desired results for both parties. As an elite partner recruiting boutique, we try to serve as a concierge to the folks we are working with.

LD: Looking at current matters, what trends are you seeing in the recruiting industry these days?

GM: Though we have searches across the legal spectrum for our firm clients, if there are any trends, I'd suggest that over the past couple of years there has been particular interest in private equity-oriented fund formation and debt and acquisition finance (as it relates to private equity transactions). We have also seen an uptick in the strategic desire for high-level patent litigation nationally. Additionally, we have seen increased activity related to law firm merger discussions.

LD: What advice do you have for clients on how to work with a recruiting advisor most productively?

GM: Be as transparent and candid in communications as possible, whether you are potentially looking to make a move for you and your team, or if you are a firm looking to acquire top-level talent in a specific area of interest for growth. The more detailed and specific information that you can share with your recruiting advisor, the smoother the process will be and there is a better chance to achieve the desired results.

Also, if you are a partner looking to make a move, make sure you do your due diligence on the recruiter or recruiters you are considering working with. Look at their track record and don't be afraid to ask them tough questions about the value they potentially bring to you and the process you are about to undertake.

LD: What about advice for current law school students who might be interested in pursuing a career as a recruiter?

GM: Legal recruiting, particularly at the highest levels involving partners, practice groups and mergers, can be an extremely rewarding profession in numerous ways, but it is also incredibly challenging. I have learned that to be most successful, one has to be disciplined, absolutely committed and resilient. At the top of profession, I believe the folks making the most serious impact work as hard as many of the attorneys we place.

LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?

GM: I love spending time with my family and our three dogs, but I also consider myself an avid amateur poker player and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of playing high-level Texas Hold’em tournaments against the pros.

LD: Do you have a favorite book or movie about the law?

GM: I am really looking forward to reading “Servants of the Damned,” the new book by David Enrich. I also loved the show “Suits” when it first came out.