Law: Recruiting

July 21, 2008

As a 1L I have had the wonderful opportunity to work at a law firm without feeling as if I am already committed to ending up there after graduation.  This isn’t to say that I won’t end up at my current firm (I am really enjoying this place) but rather, I am not in the position of having to either get an offer or go back on the market as a 3L (and somewhat of a pariah). 

I was thinking about this today in the context of a law, drawn out game of telephone, when I realized that the summer program isn’t really for the summers, its for the next class.  Think about it.  If the firm a 2L was at stopped doing the “spoil the summer” routine in early July, its not like that student would be in a good place to just stop working, or to say “screw this firm I’ll find someplace better.”  As a 2L, you are largely in a “take-it-or-leave-it” position.  On the flip side, if a firm stopped spoiling their summers in early July, word would get out and the following year they would be less desirable.  Even though nobody would ever say “I went to X,Y, and Z because I hear their summer program is awsome,” a student is equaly unlikely to go “well, A, B, and C have a reputation for working their summers to death and not doing anything nice, I think I’ll go there.”  The summer program makes the current summers happy and we certainly appreciate the effort, but in the end, its really about keeping up appearances for the next group. 

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, think about it.  The hardest part for the firm is getting summers to join their summer program in the first place.  If a firm get their first choice summers, even if they scaled back on the quality of their program, they would still bring in their first choice talent.  Despite this, the “woo’ing” phase is about the same everywhere.  Bring you in for a callback where the balance of power is still unclear (you don’t have the job yet), then do a bunch of interviews and tours, tell you how great the place is, and take you out to lunch.  This is all bookended by comp’d flights and hotel rooms.  Every firm does basically the same thing.  In fact, I can only think of one firm (Quinn) that tried to do any sort of above-the-call-of-duty recruiting during callbacks.  If firms really wanted to recruit their way into the best young associates, they would focus more on this part of the process and less on the summer.   What does this look like?  I’m not sure.  Some suggestions:

1.  Scrap one of the expensive summer events and replace it with an “acceptance scholarship.”  Pay some set amount of tuition for everybody that accepts a summer offer (perhaps $1500, offset by eliminating one lunc and one dinner a week).  This may be a little much so I also suggest:

2.  Arranginga deal with a local drycleaner to pick up and press the applicants interview clothes the night before on the firm’s dime.

3.  Instead of doing pre-finals care packages have something nice waiting for the interviewee in their hotel room.  Perhaps

4.  Do an event for everybody who was given the offer, make it something fun instead of something stuffy

5.  Post-callback social event.  This might be tough for people doing multiple callbacks, but use the firm seats/suite (if its open) to take an interviewing 2L to a game the night of their callback.  At the game you can give the subtle sales pitch.

I realize these are all really materialistic and sound like a future 2L going “give us more stuff.”  I’m not suggesting that.  Instead I’m suggesting that firms spend more resources trying to get people into their summer program and less on their summer program itself.  On a related note, if firms really want to find the “right person” they would spend more time explaining the culture/nature of the firm and less on the “interview” portion.  An interest opinion firms should consider:  Letter everybody that has an offer do a real job shadow and follow a junior associate for the day with no hand holding.  Let the summer see how that associate’s day goes.  Did they spend 6 hours reasearching on the computer?  Did they spend 6 hours doing meaningful work?  Did anybody come and yell at them?  A real opportunity to see what the firm is like in an uncontrolled environment would be extremely valuable.  That said, I don’t know if this is even possible.  After all, pick the wrong day and you could be watching somebody read a computer screen for 10 hours and really, this wouldn’t accomplish much at all.

A lot of this isn’t feasible, but the concept needs to at least be looking at.  Instead of preaching to the choir, try to get the type of people you want into your choir before you start to tell them how great the firm is.

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