Meet the Headhunter Who Placed Scott Barshay at Paul Weiss

Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

At various times in a forty-five minute interview, Manhattan-based recruiter Mark Rosen hung up the phone to take another call — “This is important, I have to take this.” — and put me on hold as he brushed off others — “I’m on the phone with a reporter, I can’t talk now!”

For more than three decades as a recruiter, his success has often hinged on knowing which calls don’t matter, and which calls really matter — like the one he placed to Brad Karp, the chair of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind Wharton & Garrison in mid-February that led to the hiring of Cravath, Swaine & Moore M&A partner Scott Barshay.

“I spoke to Brad and said Scott is willing to sit down and meet with you,” recalled Rosen, who said the Feb. 26 call led to a meeting in Manhattan. “I have long relationships with both of them.”

Rosen, 62, operates in a niche, but influential world of headhunting for the nation’s top law firms. They assist lawyers, the primary assets of a law firm, who can walk out the door at a moment’s notice, destabilizing a firm’s business, or vaulting the hiring firm to higher profitability and prestige.

The firm he owns, Mark Bruce International, employs five full-time recruiters including Rosen, as well as four telemarketers who call into lawyers to try to set up meetings for law firm clients.

Rosen called the Barshay move the largest placement of his career, in terms of industry significance: hardly any partners leave Cravath, which has remained financially sound with low turnover because of its lockstep structure, and Barshay was one of its top performers.

“This was like a marriage of the titans,” said Rosen, noting that the move marked a broader shift in the business of law.

“The legal profession has changed — lawyers are hungrier than maybe their predecessors were, and the world we live in is more expensive. How much money you make is more important.”

In an interview with Big Law Business, Rosen laid out some additional background on the Barshay lateral move and his views on the world of legal recruiting. Below is an edited transcript of our discussion.

Big Law Business: How did this deal come together?

Rosen: Scott and I have known each other now for five or six years. We were introduced by a mutual friend. Professionals like to keep their options open. If the time comes where they’re not happy where they are, and they need to do something, it’s good to have someone to help them that is knowledgeable of the industry they are in and give them the right advice and provide them with the right opportunity.

We get together several times a year and have lunch. We became friends, and at one point he became frustrated with his previous firm and it was just that Paul Weiss was the right opportunity. They have been a client of mine for quite some time, going back to January 2013. I was working with them before then, but I started working on an annual retainer.

Big Law Business: What was Scott frustrated about?

Rosen: I think it was a combination of things including compensation. Most people are not 100 percent happy.

Big Law Business: Questions have surfaced in the legal community about what this move means for Cravath’s lockstep system. What’s your stance on that?

Rosen: I think in today’s world, I don’t agree with (lockstep). I think big rainmakers at law firms should be treated the way rainmakers are treated in any other business, whether it’s banking or private equity or whatever it might be. People who are responsible for bringing in huge business should be treated differently than people who aren’t.

Big Law Business: Partners switch firms all the time, but certainly not at this level. Can you speak to the significance of this move?

Rosen: In my opinion, I think this is the biggest deal ever. Scott is by far the most high-profile lateral candidate that has moved from one firm to another. A lot of partners have made moves, but I don’t think anybody at Scott’s level.

Big Law Business: How long ago did discussions start?

Rosen: It was all very recent. Under two months. I think at Scott’s level, it’s important that it happens quickly. Things have a way of getting out, no matter how hard people try to keep things confidential.

Big Law Business: There’s a lot of buzz about Scott’s compensation at Paul Weiss. Can you talk about how much he is earning in his new role?

Rosen: It was significantly more than what he was getting paid at Cravath, but I won’t say more than that. The comp was important, but Scott felt it was a great opportunity. It was the right time and coming up as the global head of M&A at Paul Weiss was very exciting.

Big Law Business: Placing a partner of Barshay’s caliber is quite the feat. What advice would you give to other recruiters?

Rosen: I think the best advice I would give other recruiters is to always be honest. Trust is important when you’re dealing with people at this level, whether they are bankers or lawyers. And you have to know the business. If you present an opportunity to someone, it should be the right opportunity, and it should be well thought out. Too many recruiters just try to place people for a fee and that is just totally wrong. The last thing you should be thinking about as a recruiter is the fee or how much money you are making. You should be thinking about the candidate and the law firm and the fit.