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In this week’s Law Firm Disrupted, we look for advice on how to reform the on-campus interview (OCI) process from those who are perhaps the best-suited to rethink it: Summer associates.I’m Roy Strom, the author of this weekly column, and you are best-suited to help me rethink something by reaching out to me at  rstrom@alm.com .


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“How can we deliver legal services and work in legal organizations in better ways?”Indeed! That is a question I often try to answer. Recently, the entire summer associate class of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe took a stab at it as well.About two weeks ago, Orrick flew half their “summers” to Silicon Valley and half to New York to participate in what could be called a “hackathon” or a “design sprint” or some combination thereof. The Silicon Valley crowd was led in their efforts by Lucy Ricca, executive director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, while the New York unit was shown the ropes by William Henderson, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Not a bad pair of teachers.The summers were put into groups of about six and chose to redesign an aspect of either on-campus recruiting or legal academia. To do this, they were taught the basics of something that has crept into the law firm-innovation-marketing lexicon that I’ve until now managed to avoid: Design thinking.I’m writing about this recently en vogue term now for three reasons: 1. I have a slide that quickly describes what the design thinking process is. 2. The summers came up with a good idea as a result of the “design sprint-hackathon,” 3. It is a good example of a very efficient way for a law firm to problem-solve.Here is the slide:
Courtesy of Margaret Hagan, director of Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab
As summer associates who only a year ago went through the chaotic OCI endeavor, the group was particularly well-suited to understand the process for the group of stakeholders they sought to make life easier for: Law firm candidates.The “synthesize” step helped the groups go from a broad topic—OCI recruiting—to a particular problem they sought to solve, which was a lack of easily accessible information on both sides. Law students have to spend hours Googling various law firms. Law firms often don’t even know if the candidates they speak with are genuinely interested in the practice groups they are looking to hire for, a situation that Alex Lilly, now an Orrick summer, experienced firsthand.“I was in the interview thinking, ‘We’re wasting each other’s time,’” Lilly recalled. “It would have been really nice to have a tool that I could input information on what practice groups I’m interested in; what cities I’m willing to work in; information about how I work; what size firm I’m looking for; and have a tool that spits back what firms fit that and are looking for people like me.”Lilly participated in the New York-based event. Coincidentally, the other group in Silicon Valley came up with a similar idea that went one step further. It would differentiate firms by office and match candidates to specific offices. The idea was to take into account the varying practice areas, cultures and hours requirements of different law firms and offices. The associates even came up with a name for the tool: “The Firmbook.”Orrick’s chief talent officer, Siobhan Handley, said the firm is actively looking into creating that platform or partnering with another entity to create something like it.San Francisco-based summer associate Erin Zatlin was part of the Firmbook team and was new to design thinking before the event earlier this month. But she said the tool her team developed would be useful for firms like Orrick to use in order to solve their own business problems.“The most valuable part of it for me is that it provided a tailored way to hone in on or do a significant amount of reflection to think about what the actual problem is,” Zatlin said. “As students, we think about both of the problems offered to us very generally. OCI is too difficult. Law school is too long. But the process really does focus you on getting more granular and thinking, ‘Why is it actually a problem?’ And I think that is a really necessary step in terms of solving any kind of problem.”Orrick hopes so. The firm has been using design sprints or hackathons in an increased number of its training sessions, Handley said. There are at least three hackathons planned in the next six to eight months, Handley said, including one for the firm’s new associates during a training academy in September.“We think this kind of thinking, being creative, coming up with unique solutions, is an absolute necessity for the practice of law now,” Handley said. “And I think it’s teachable, even though it’s not taught in law schools now.”Maybe that’s a topic for another design sprint.
 

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