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Law Firms Face Work Life Balance Questions on Law School Campuses

An August 15, 2006 article on discusses changes in law firms' recruiting strategies as the interviewing season gets underway on law school campuses.

A robust legal market in which revenue at the top 100 U.S. law firms increased by 10.6% to $51 billion from 2004 to 2005 combined with declining law school enrollment (down 4.6% in 2005) has created a double whammy for law firm recruiters - increased demand confronting dwindling supply. As a result, large law firms have added to the number of campuses they visit, and have resorted to various strategms to woo candidates such as renting hospitality suites at local hotels for cocktail receptions.

Attorney retention is also starting to figure prominently in recruiting circles. With the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) reporting attrition rates in 2005 for associates in private law firms at 78 percent for those who have worked at such firms for about five years (up from 60 percent in 2000), law firms are getting cagey about trying to figure out which candidates are likely to stick around for partnership. The article noted that one "red flag" recruiters watch out for are candidates who are "too passionate" about an outside interest. Seems if you speak too enthusiastically about some extracurricular activity, firms believe you may ultimately drift towards that activity and away from law. As odd as it may seem, such thinking makes some sense. In many of the interviews that JD Bliss has conducted with lawyers that transitioned out of law, a common denominator was an outside passion that these lawyers were able to translate into an alternative career. Still, diverse interests make for a stimulating work environment and more effective business development (think a partner and a top client who share an interest in baseball memorabilia or bridge), and it would thus hardly seem in law firms' best interests to recruit boring people.

Students, on the other hand, are showing a greater interest in work life balance issues, although most avoid being too direct about this concern for fear of conveying an unwillingness to work hard. As Shervin Lalezary, a second-year student at University of Southern California Law School, explains, he plans to ask firms about work-life balance albeit through questions "worded the right way."

Based on the above, one could say law school interviews are turning into chess matches as each side employs various strategies to indirectly ferret out the "inside" information they need to make a decision consistent with their needs.

Read the full article here.

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