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Improving Recruiting Techniques as a First Line of Defense Against Attrition

Almost everyone I talked to did fantasy football and was really interested in talking about their inner-firm leagues," said one law student interviewing for a summer position at major law firms in 2007 who ultimately landed a job at Latham & Watkins. “Partners might have been trying to make a connection with me by chatting about the trivial, but you don't feel you are being seriously vetted for a position."

According to a 2007 survey of AmLaw 200 recruiting partners and legal consultants, firms spend as much as $250,000 to recruit a single summer associate, including all of the billable lawyer time spent recruiting and the hard costs (dinners, plane tickets, beach towels with a firm logo). However, as the quote above shows, many firms don’t make good use of the recruiting process, which is often characterized by short 20-minute interviews, shallow questions and a sheaf of boilerplate marketing materials.

This is unfortunate since the first line of defense against poor retention is improving the recruiting process by which firms hire associates. In particular, interviews represent an ideal opportunity to (i) assess the likelihood that a candidate will remain with the firm based on his or her interests, personality, expectations, and long-term goals, and (ii) communicate the expectations and culture of the firm in a way that helps the candidate assess compatibility. As such, firms need to train attorneys, professional staff and alumni on appropriate interviewing techniques.

Here's an excellent article on some of the steps being taken by law firms to improve the recruiting process (based on best practices employed in other professional services industries such as consulting) in an effort to make better matches and cut down on some of the subsequent turnover that has over 55% of associates leaving their firms after 5 years.

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