Our legal expert Thomas Hartwell provides his top tips for success...

A legal recruiter from a legal background, Thomas joined Hydrogen in 2011. He divides his time between Private Practice, Offshore and Irish markets. We got the lowdown about working in recruitment and life at Hydrogen.

Forging strong relationships
You know you’re doing a good job when the client comes to you first with jobs on an exclusive or retainer basis, or when they introduce you to other prospects. It becomes a real partnership rather than just a transactional relationship. The fact that we’ve worked with our candidates for a number of years builds trust and so they value your market knowledge.

Career highlights
Working with new clients is always a high point. In 2016, I worked with one organisation who very rarely hire and are notoriously picky. We managed to find the candidate they hired within a few days. Another standout achievement was being able to grow our Offshore practice from scratch and build a team in a new market. Helping new consultants achieve their goals is another highlight. 

Low points
I got a bit lucky when I started out as a consultant. Everything went really well and looking back, I had taken a lot for granted. Then suddenly you have a few lean months and it knocks you for six. You can’t understand it as you’re doing the same things. Basically, I hadn’t had anything to learn from that went wrong. It was tough but it’s part of the learning curve. The plus side is that you can pass on that experience to others.  

First impressions
My earliest memory was sitting waiting for my induction and then being introduced to everyone. Everyone was very friendly and from day one there was a strong ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality. Recruitment is often perceived to be very individualistic, which certainly isn’t the case here. 

Frustrating aspect
When things don’t work out for various reasons, that are out of your and the client and candidates’ hands and you can’t stop something happening. There are lots of moving parts, particularly with international legal recruitment, for example legislative changes or external factors that might prevent a person from realising their dream move. 

Career in recruitment
As a company we firmly believe that you develop as a recruiter throughout your career.  You need different help at different times and we have the structure to support people at every stage. There are no shortcuts to success – you need to put in the work. The biggest satisfaction I get is from making a difference to my clients and candidates. We love what we do and want to be the best that we can. Everything else follows. 

Entrepreneurial spirit
One of the big benefits here at Hydrogen is that you get all the benefits of a start-up with all the advantages of being part of an established global leading player. You’re encouraged to be entrepreneurial and launch new businesses. But it’s not forced. You can stay in an established market if you want. Being able to launch a new business is exciting and the backing of the Hydrogen brand effectively removes the risk. 

Why Hydrogen
The collegiate culture. I work with our teams in Asia, Australia and other parts of the business. We work as one and openly share information, which makes a big difference. If you need help, it’s there, and everyone from the senior management team down, is very approachable. Everything is transparent, from pay rises to bonuses and promotions, you know what you’re getting. My role involves quite a bit of travelling, so flexible working is a big plus. We have a lot fun too!

Lessons learned
I know a lot less than I thought I did. You learn new things every day and you’re constantly adding to your arsenal. I thought I was really organised but having to balance your time between managing and performing as a consultant is challenging. Sometimes you have to learn to let go which isn’t always easy. It’s about feeling as though I’m continuing to go forward and add value.  
 
Meaning of expertise
To me it’s someone who is ahead of the market and knows where it’s going. You can’t say you’re an expert without knowing what is going to happen before it does. That means you need to have relationships with the right people – that small percentage of key decision makers. You need to immerse yourself in the market and get to know about new office launches, legislative changes, peaks and troughs etc.