Tsvetelina Zlateva has a unique profile, as the Named Partner at a new Bulgarian law firm – Aldinova & Zlateva, which opened in January, 2016 – and, simultaneously, operator of BPro BG Ltd., which she describes as the only dedicated legal recruiting company in Bulgaria. We spoke with her recently about her uncommon dual role.
How did you get into the legal recruiting business?
T.Z.: The whole idea about legal recruitment was born during my legal practice. Before becoming an attorney, I was a legal adviser at different companies for several years. When I started my private legal practice, some of my former colleagues asked me if I wanted to hire them, but at that point I could not afford to pay them a salary. At the same time some people who were aware that I had many lawyers as friends asked me to recommend legal advisers for their own businesses. That’s how the whole thing started.
But I didn’t exactly “get into” the legal recruiting business. When I researched how widespread the idea of legal recruitment is in Bulgaria, I discovered that no one had realized the need for that specific kind of HR service. So for me there was nothing other to do than to become the first specialist in recruitment of legal professionals in Bulgaria. This idea was realized in the summer of 2015.
Do other law firms worry that you’ll simply keep the best candidates for your own team and send them only the ones you don’t want?
T.Z.: There is no need for such concerns, because each client has individual needs and requirements regarding candidate selection. In the first place, the perfect match for my own team might not be the best for my client’s team, and vice versa.
In the second place, my legal recruitment firm gives at least six months guarantee that the chosen employee will continue to work for the client after that period expires. That’s why I cannot afford to place a candidate who is not the best choice.
Another reason, and maybe the most important one, is that if I don’t want some candidate for my own team, I wouldn’t submit their application to my client at all.
Why are there so few legal recruiters in Bulgaria?
T.Z.: That is because no matter how big the companies searching for a legal professional are, they prefer to select their employees by themselves or to use the services of some HR company. Also, they are still not very familiar with this specific service.
But regardless whether the employer has its own HR department or is using an external one – and just as IT recruiters are always people who themselves have IT backgrounds – high quality legal recruitment has to be performed by lawyers. In a store you cannot choose a ripe avocado if you do not understand avocados at all, right?
According to the particular profile of the employee and individual requirements of the employer, in my work sometimes I use an HR consultant to make the necessary team, but that’s not common.
Are most of your clients companies or law firms?
T.Z.: Well, I can give that kind of statistic after at least one year of activity in legal recruitment in Bulgaria. But I can say that my first client was a company with an in-house HR department and they didn’t know what criteria to apply and how to appoint a legal adviser. They weren’t even sure if they needed an external legal adviser or an in-house lawyer. They didn’t know what the difference is.
How are you able to do both your legal recruiting work and your lawyer work at the same time? Is it difficult to wear two hats?
T.Z.: These two occupations do not exclude each other. In fact, being a lawyer is very helpful in expanding my professional contacts. This is important and relevant about knowing more lawyers in general and reaching people or companies which are looking for legal professionals.
So there’s just one hat – and it happens to be more colorful than others.
What’s the most rewarding/satisfying part of being a lawyer, to you? What about being a legal recruiter?
T.Z.: We’ve all heard about bad and unprofessional things that are happening in the Bulgarian legal system. Some of them are true, some of them are not, but either way for me as an attorney the most satisfying part of the job is when my arguments in court happen to be the same as the motives in the final court decision.
The best part of being a legal recruiter is when the guarantee period under the contract expires and the chosen candidate continues to work for the client. Only then do you know for sure that you’ve understood and completed the requirements and met the needs of both sides – employee and employer – by finding the perfect profile match.
This Article was originally published in Issue 3.2 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.