Profile: Cortland Kelly Grynwald, Vice President

As featured in our Q1 2020 Searchlight newsletter

image of Cortland Kelly Grynwald with quote

Cortland Kelly Grynwald excels in legal, risk and compliance search for public, private and municipal enterprises. As an attorney herself, she understands the nuances of how legal and quasi-legal leadership succeeds in corporate environments. She leverages this insight in serving her clients and has been doing so nationally for over a decade, building a broad national network of contacts.

What was your first job, and what was it like?

My first real job was as a retail clerk at Movie Time Video, a VHS rental store back in the late 80’s when I was a senior in high school. I quickly moved up to become one of the assistant managers, which basically consisted of the same duties—checking movies in and out for customers, maintaining the stock on the floor, cleaning, etc.—along with supervising opening and closing duties and counting the cash drawer. It was a great first job with fun people and a good boss.

How and when did you get started in the executive search business?

I started in the boutique legal search business in June of 2005. I was an associate attorney at the time, looking to move law firms and used several different legal recruiters to help facilitate my search. Each of them was also an attorney and I was fascinated by the context in which they were applying their legal education in helping clients and candidates navigate the hiring process. I ended up being much more attracted to the search platform than the law firm world and ultimately joined the firm best-known for in-house legal placements in Texas at the time—Prescott Legal Search. Several years later, I joined Pearson Partners, where I specialize in general counsel and in-house legal, risk and compliance executive search.

Why did you feel this was the right field for you? What do you love about your job?

I felt that becoming a legal recruiter was the perfect blend of the left-brained and right-brained attributes that made up the balance of my personality. I could be both creative and outgoing in developing business via networking and attending events and social functions, while still applying my “lawyer brain” through writing projects and analytical thought in assessing candidates and consulting with clients regarding departmental needs. I love that nothing in my job ever feels stale and that I’m constantly learning, growing and improving. No two days are ever the same and I am empowered to build an amazing practice with such an impressive team here at Pearson!

What are some highlights of your career so far? Tell us about your best days or proudest moments.

My proudest moments stem from bonding with companies and legal departments where I’ve become ingrained as part of their team when hiring decisions arise. To know that I’m their go-to search consultant because none other knows their corporate or team culture better is a badge of honor. I strive to develop a practice with Pearson Partners where I become this kind of valued resource to PPI’s clients for legal and quasi-legal needs in addition to other C-suite searches. I would be truly proud to become a partner that is intrinsic to PPI clients’ search processes because of the quality of my contributions.

What drew you to Pearson Partners?

I was drawn to Pearson Partners by the opportunity to marry my strong legal connections with PPI’s existing retained search platform (which is a new focus for me) to establish a new and focused legal, risk and compliance practice with global reach across Pearson’s IIC Partners Worldwide partnership. I also love the people here, and the incredible working environment!

What is your philosophy or approach when it comes to client relationships?

I believe very strongly in paying it forward and investing long-term in developing solid relationships, regardless of immediate ROI. I have countless clients who have become candidates and vice-versa, because you have no idea where someone will be in their career next month, next year or even five years from now. I also strive, in every encounter that I have with others, to leave them in a better position than they were in before our meeting—whether that’s as simple as leaving them with a better attitude or a smile on their face, or with real, concrete information, advice, instructions, feedback, etc. about a search, their resume, an interview or the like. I want clients to feel that their time with me was well-spent and enriching and I always like to give them something during our interactions (whether by phone, email or in person) that makes that personal touch feel useful—or at least fun.

How has today’s challenging job market affected Pearson Partners’ and the general search industry business? How has the company and industry adapted?

Recently, of course, we have been dealing with COVID-19 and all the quarantine and shelter-in-place restrictions which have affected everyone’s business, including ours. Fortunately, most of our existing searches are going forward full-tilt and we are as busy as ever getting those filled and satisfying clients—even during these strange times. Some new business and searches are temporarily hitting pause, if only to deal with the front-burner need for dealing with the changing circumstances and questionable outlook for when things may return to “normal.” But the need for executive search is still there and we are, in most cases, conducting business as usual. I, personally, have pulled back a bit from reaching out to prospective clients out of deference to the fact that legal departments, in particular, are swamped with work right now and I am sensitive to the burdens on their time. I want my outreach to be useful, not a nuisance, so I’ve adapted my approach.

What do you like to do outside of the office? Hobbies or passions?

I’m a Pilates junkie and try to attend a class every day (when allowed to leave the house.) My family and I go to movies—particularly those suited to the tastes of a 10-year-old (our daughter.) We also ride motorcycles and dirt bikes when we can, as spare weekend days are normally hard to come by. We love to get outside and love to travel, especially to the mountains.

If you had to make a career change tomorrow, what job would you choose, and why?

I would form my own business and become a professional legal resume writer, because I’ve spent a significant part of the last 15 years doing a great deal of that anyway and have gotten incredibly good at it. I would likely brush up on my LinkedIn skills and add retooling attorneys’ LinkedIn profiles as a component of my services. People typically have neither the desire nor the bandwidth to handle these themselves and there is a constant stream of clients, so I feel like this would be a fairly sustainable business for me, if I ever needed it.

What motto do you live by?

Knowledge is power.

Learn more about Cortland in her professional bio.

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