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Posted In: Talent Strategy

Law Firm Hiring Models: No Longer “Par for the Course”

Every year about this time I experience the same hallucination –  By the time the cold Chicago weather breaks, I’ll be a good golfer.  It never works.  Try as I might, my best intentions to take a few lessons always fall by the wayside and other than buying new golf clothing & shoes, I end up being the same lousy golfer (albeit better dressed).

Calling the pro shop last week, I recalled a conversation with a recruiting director at an AmLaw 200 firm in 2008.  When I asked her how the firm’s summer associate program was going, she responded “Ask the pro shop”.  Huh?  Turned out their summer associates felt entitled to expense new gloves, balls, clothing – and even some new golf clubs – to the firm at a recent golf outing.  She was exasperated, and we launched into a then-common conversation about the “entitlement generation”.

Fast forward to 2013.  Gone are the fancy golf outings, lavish dinners, and baseball games.  Heck, gone are the summer associates as well!  According to NALP’s recent Perspectives on Fall 2012 Law Student Recruiting, law firms continue to bring in small summer classes, with median and average class size barely increasing from recession-era lows.  Offer rates coming out of summer programs remain high, but they fell by more than a point from the previous summer.  Not surprisingly, acceptance rates for those offers set another record high.

Here’s an interesting observation:  According to Peer Monitor (a Thomson Reuters monthly financial benchmarking service), spending on recruiting is actually…. Increasing!  Recruiting expenses were up 19.4% in 2012 and 23.4% in 2011.

Here’s another interesting observation:  Firms are not returning to the old model of hiring. Savvy firms are gaining a competitive advantage via their hiring models. Even stalwart firms that thought the recession was a “blip” on the radar screen are lamenting the end of their traditional hiring methods.

Firms rethinking their hiring models have about as many options to choose from as ways I can improve my golf swing- A lot!  Whether they refocus on lateral hiring, contract/temp-to-hire attorneys, project attorneys, staff attorneys, alumni relations, interview training, marketing, personality testing, or non-traditional positions like pricing directors, the right mix will be different for every firm.

It’s clear that law firm hiring models have changed significantly since that conversation I had in 2008.  I only wish I could say the same for my golf game.


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