David von Dadelszen left New Zealand in 2004 to pursue a legal career in London before moving into legal recruiting in 2006. He’s now an associate director at Jameson Legal, which helps legal professionals find opportunities all around the world.
In this interview, he shares what made him choose a career in law, what motivated him to move from New Zealand to the UK, and what keeps him motivated in his chosen field of expertise.
He also shares how finding one particular trait in your legal recruiter can make or break a good move overseas.
What made you choose a career in law?
My family are all lawyers, so I always felt destined to be one myself. My father actually tried to dissuade me and suggested I look into a career in technology. This was pre-internet. I ignored him. What do parents know?
What made you move to London?
The “OE” is such a rite of passage for kiwis that I’d always thought I’d do it one day. I realised I had more friends from school and university in London than New Zealand. That and the right to a British passport made it an easy decision.
What made you switch to legal recruitment?
I’d always thought I’d be a better recruiter than a lawyer, and I was ambushed by a legal recruiter at a weak moment who suggested I come and work with him. I’m still a better recruiter than I was a lawyer, so no real regrets.
What do you love the most about your job?
I really enjoy helping lawyers make the best out of their careers, and helping clients find the best lawyers. Legal career advice is badly lacking, both in New Zealand and internationally, and maybe I can do something to fill the gaps. Also, I have freedom to choose how I work. It’s taken a lot of years to get there though, and you need to work for the right people.
What has been your proudest accomplishment to date?
The high point of my legal career was winning the client interviewing prize at university. I’m always quietly proud when I feel like I’ve given somebody good advice, which has helped them with their career.
If you could change anything about your job right now, or the legal profession in general, what would it be?
There are some bad recruiters out there and I’d rather not be tarred with the same brush.
In terms of the legal profession, it has massive issues with diversity across the board. Particularly frustrating is the inability or unwillingness of many employers in the profession, big law firms especially, to hire outside of fairly rigid PQE parameters and also embrace more flexible working styles, in terms of locations and working arrangements.
What do you love doing outside of work and why?
I enjoy spending time with my family. When the kids allow it, I like to keep fit and persist in playing rugby for my local club. I’ve proven to them time and again that not all kiwis are good at rugby. I’m not sure why I enjoy this.
What is/are the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t believe your own publicity. Also, see the answer to the first question: listen to your parents more.
What is your advice to lawyers looking to make an international move?
I have a lot of advice and it needs to be tailored to each individual.
But in general: do your research. Find a recruiter you trust or who is recommended who will be honest about your value in the market and what you might expect. If you’re not from one of the very top firms in New Zealand you’ll need to be realistic about your chances of joining a top firm, or company, abroad. A good recruiter will be honest and will suggest options for you, even if it’s to speak with another recruiter or agency that might be able to help.
What do you think is the single biggest issue facing your area of expertise in the next 12 months?
Any drop in business confidence caused by political events is bad for recruitment and lawyers. So I’m hoping for a stable 12 months after the last nine years.
Beyond the next 12 months, I’m not concerned about technology taking my job – there will always be a need for the personal touch to recruit in a non-commoditised area such as law. Technology might replace or at least reduce the need for some legal jobs, though.
David qualified as a solicitor in New Zealand and moved to the UK in 2004. He worked in-house in the technology sector for two years before moving into recruitment in 2006. Before joining Jameson, David was ran recruitment at a large City law firm. You can reach him at DVD@jamesonlegal.com.
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