Law Firm Recruiting Revolution

by Vault Law Editors | May 03, 2011

  • My Vault

Blind interview, rinse, repeat: the popular recruiting method of BigLaw firms, who see countless law students throughout recruiting season in the fall. Add to that months of call-back interviews and chasing after the top candidates with offers, and law firm recruiting is quite the process.

Given the law firm efficiency model, it’s surprising that firms subscribe to such a drawn-out method to try and figure out which students are the best fits. What if there was a better way? Bruce MacEwan and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith, Esq. think there is—they call it JD Match, and they launched the tool today.

JD Match uses an algorithm to match law students and law firms. Firms input qualities they’re seeking, generating a pool of potential candidates. And students can rank their top firms, so firms know which students are committed to them. It’s kind of like for law firm recruiting. But what exactly is it and why should the legal industry use it? Ms. Stanton took some time to answer Vault’s questions on the new tool:

Vault Law: What is JD Match?

Janet Stanton: JD Match is presented by Adam Smith, Esq. We provide an online membership service addressing the flawed system for recruiting law students into law firms using a proprietary matching algorithm that pairs firms’ preferences for students with students’ preferences for firms. JD Match is open to all law schools, law students and law firms in the U.S. and is an overlay (not replacing) to current recruiting practices and guidelines. The primary impetus for developing JD Match is to help begin to bring a measure of efficiency, order and transparency to the historically dysfunctional law student recruiting market.

VL: How does the algorithm work?

JS: JD Match has developed a proprietary preference-based matching algorithm to examine and compare students’ ranked preferences for firms and firms’ ranked preferences for students. The premise is that students and firms are each in the best position to determine what’s in their own self interest. The rankings represent all the knowledge firms and students have about each other. The algorithm does not take into account any other factors than preferences.

The pairings require mutual interest. Firms and students have to add one another to their respective rankings for there to be the possibility of a match. No member will be paired with a counterpart they did not put on their preference list. The algorithm runs three times during the recruiting season to accommodate different OCI schedules at law schools, as well as different segments of firms and students. Matches do not require firms to make offers to students nor students to accept offers from firms; rather, they provide a strong indicator of mutual interest.

VL: I’m a law student, and I don’t want the firms I’m interviewing with to know where else I’m interviewing and which firms I rank higher than them. Will other firms be able to see my matches and rankings?

JS: First, no one; repeat – no one – but you see your rankings or any matches you may receive as a result of your membership in JD Match; security has been a driving strategy for us from the get-go. All a firm may know is whether you ranked them highly on your list of firms.

VL: I’m a law firm that is interested in only recruiting students that rank me in their top 5 on JD Match. Once I give a student an offer, what incentive does he or she have not to delete me from the top five and insert another firm he or she wants an interview with?

JS: In reality, this type of behavior can happen under current practices, where it’s widely recognized that desirable students can give “a nod and a wink” to many prestigious firms indicating their interest, when everyone knows that in truth they must prefer some firms over others.

This is precisely where JD Match comes in: It brings greater transparency to the process by requiring students (and firms) to rank their preferences in strict order: No “batches,” no ties.

Ultimately, we believe that students who attempt to game the system this way will only bring discredit upon themselves.

VL: I go to a top law school and am at the top of my class. I already have a full schedule of interviews through my law school’s Fall OCI/EIP program. How would JD Match be useful for someone like me?

JS: First, congratulations; you’re in an enviable position. JD Match can be useful to you as it reveals to you which among the firms that you rank highly also ranks you highly, indicating strong mutual interest which we believe will lead to matches that stand the test of time.

Your situation—one student being courted by many firms—is really the flip-side of the last question—one firm being courted by many students. The fact that firms cannot rank all the students they are willing to hire equally highly means that JD Match is one of the few ways you’re likely to learn which firms are serious when they tell you they really want you.

VL: I’m in the middle or at the bottom of my law school class. Once firms see my class ranking on my resume, they turn me down. How would JD Match be useful for someone like me?

JS: JD Match could be very helpful to you. How? JD Match allows students to speak directly to firms by what they include on their My Page. You can include materials that present a fuller picture of yourself beyond class rank or GPA. This can include writing samples, “comments” directly to law firms (which they see when they click on your profile), work experience or other characteristics firms may find appealing. The more you include on your Page, the more firms can know about you.

Don’t forget that JD Match also provides firms ways to discover students they have never met—including students at law schools they don’t even visit. These services can only increase the odds of a firm finding you. After that, it’s up to you to present yourself in the best light.

VL: I have several summer associate offers. Would JD Match still be useful for me?

JS: Certainly many students are likely envious of you. That said, having several choices carries its own anxieties. JD Match can help in this by identifying which firm that you rank highly also ranked you highly; that is the best possible match based on the strongest degree of mutual interest.

VL: What if all of my matches are law firms that have already rejected me?

JS: This won’t happen; within JD Match it’s a virtual impossibility. First, firms must include you in their rankings for any match whatsoever to occur with you and they are be unlikely to include you if they’ve already rejected you.

Moreover, remembering that matches must be “mutual”—you have to put the firm on your list and the firm has to put you on their list—you should have long since removed any firm that rejected you from your list: They’re taking up valuable space you could devote to firms where you still have a shot. As long as either you or the firm knocks the other off their list, no match will happen.

Further, to prevent such an unfortunate circumstance, firms can list students they do not want to hire – just as students can list firms they do not want to work for.

VL: I work in law firm recruiting. I’m already swamped with EIP/OCI, call-back interviews, and receptions for those with offers. How will I have time or need for another recruiting tool?

JS: We developed JD Match, based largely on research we conducted among recruiting professionals, such as you – as well as your counterparts at schools. One thing we heard loud and clear is how time-crunched you already are. To that end, we’ve made participation remarkably easy. Registration takes just a few minutes. All the navigation is easy and intuitive.

That said, in many ways JD Match assists you in doing your job better. You can access a wider range of students than before and do it online from anywhere. Further, JD Match lets you know which students are more likely to accept an offer, bringing greater efficiency to the recruiting process.

Longer-term, reports generated from the algorithm’s output will provide guidance to help you hone your recruiting strategies to be even more effective.

VL: I work in a law school career services office. Is JD Match trying to replace my job? Why should I use JD Match over the placement practices my office already uses?

JS: To the contrary, we believe it will help you do your job more effectively and make you and your colleagues in career services more important than ever within the process. First, JD Match doesn’t replace current recruiting practices; it is an additional overlay to introduce more order and efficiency to the process.

Second and as important, JD Match should help you help more of your students find the right job for them by pairing firms and students based on mutual interest. Once students have to be more serious about comparing firms, your role in the process will only grow. Finally, JD Match should help advance your overall goal: To get more of your students offers because JD Match allows firms to search students by a wide range of characteristics beyond GPA or class rank.

JD Match site
Adam Smith Esq site

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Filed Under: Law

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