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As U.S. law firms expand internationally and international law firms establish a higher profile in the United States, law school recruiting has taken on an increasingly global flavor. While the fundamental goal remains the same — to attract and retain a talented pool of law students — a global recruiting program poses unique opportunities and challenges. The starting point for any effective recruitment strategy is head-count planning. Before the commencement of fall recruiting, a law firm must give careful consideration to its short- and long-term business objectives in order to estimate its current and future need for U.S. associate resources. How many U.S. lawyers will the law firm need in two, five or 10 years — and in what offices will it need them? While this is a challenging question for any law firm, head-count projections may be especially difficult for a global firm, which may need to consider shifting demographics in its associate base and anticipated levels of investment into emerging markets. In designing its on-campus interviewing program, the recruiting team must consult regularly with the firm’s management to ensure that the recruiting strategy is properly aligned with its growth strategy, including that of its U.S. practice. During the fall recruiting season, all prospective law firm employers must consider on which law schools to focus, what particular individual qualities are most important in applicants and what the key messages or selling points to be conveyed to the law school community are. For a global law firm, answering those questions, and translating the firm’s global strategy into a local recruiting initiative, involves unique considerations. Choosing the specific law schools at which to recruit can be a haphazard process for many law firms, often driven as much by U.S. News and World Report rankings and partner-alumni preferences as it is by rational business planning. A global law firm should consider whether the schools on its interview roster have a particularly international bent, manifest through the relative presence of international students, the existence of joint degree programs with international law schools and active international law societies, or otherwise. While most firms will maintain a presence at the consensus “top schools,” to the extent that certain U.S. schools are thought to have a more domestic student body and academic focus, a firm may prudently elect to invest its resources elsewhere. Once the fall season is under way, the recruiting team must make difficult choices from among a wide range of talented law students. In addition to the usual factors to be considered — academic performance, interpersonal skills, job experience, extracurricular activities and so forth — a global law firm should take into consideration a candidate’s language skills (to the extent they correspond to the firm’s regional strategic priorities); commercial awareness and global-mindedness; interest and willingness to work abroad, whether on a short- or long-term basis; and personal ties to other geographic regions, including study-abroad programs and travel. In each case, the goal should be to identify students with a well-informed, long-term interest in a global work experience, rather than those merely seeking an interesting summer experience. QUALITY CONTROL Maintaining quality control in a global recruiting initiative requires careful thought and effective internal communication. While it generally is in the best interests of the firm to uphold consistent recruiting standards across jurisdictions, the recruiting team should consider market-specific standards. While a firm may conclude that law school applicants for its Hong Kong office need not speak Mandarin, local market conditions, including the prevailing standards by which business is conducted, may dictate that native fluency in German is a requirement for its Frankfurt office. Likewise, the law of supply and demand may result in relatively higher hiring standards for particular offices — for example, if there is only one placement available in a firm’s Paris office, the recruiting team may reasonably apply a more stringent cutoff test for Paris than it would for its headquarters office. Similarly, searches for candidates for certain jurisdictions may be more difficult to fill than others. The recruitment team should consider the global picture in order to decide when flexibility may be warranted. Equally, it occasionally will be incumbent upon the team to encourage partners not to compromise unnecessarily. The fall on-campus interviewing process requires a global law firm to consider carefully the overall message to be conveyed to students. It should take a number of related questions into account: Are its on-campus interviewers holding out the firm as a U.S. firm with international offices, as an international firm with U.S. offices or as a truly global firm? Are the on-campus interviewers conversant in the firm’s global operations and strategy? Are there opportunities to work in international offices during the summer — and, if so, do the on-campus interviewers know what the options are, how such placements are determined and what the pros and cons of a split summer might be? The nuances in the firm’s overall message will resonate with the law students, who are sophisticated consumers in the recruiting marketplace. Conveying a message that clearly and accurately describes the firm’s global recruitment strategy will help the recruiting team identify those students who will be the best fit. The ability of any firm to successfully present itself to the law school community as a global law firm and differentiate itself from its domestic competitors may depend in part on whether its summer associates have the opportunity to spend time in one or more international offices. If such opportunities are available, the recruiting team will need to design and manage a summer associate program involving a range of issues that otherwise would not factor into even a multioffice, but purely domestic, summer associate program. CONCEPTUAL ISSUES While the challenges posed by a multijurisdictional summer associate program are logistical to some extent, there are a few conceptual issues to be addressed in advance. Most importantly, the recruiting team should ensure that there is a clear understanding internally as to the underlying purpose of international placements and that expectations are managed appropriately, both on the part of the host offices and the summer associates themselves. Offering international placements to summer associates can be a significant advantage for a global law firm, but the recruiting team should set expectations appropriately with the participating law students. It should be made clear whether the summer placements are intended to lead to full-time job offers for the relevant offices. In some instances, that will be the case, and law students will have accepted their summer offers with the intention of starting their careers in an international office. In other cases, the firm may offer summer opportunities in locations where near-term permanent opportunities may not exist, in order to build a pipeline of associates with interest in a particular region that may be targeted for growth. For example, a global law firm might decide that, for training purposes, it would be prudent for most or all of its U.S. associates to start their careers in its headquarters office (or in its primary U.S. office, if not the headquarters of the firm) while preserving flexibility for certain associates to move to a smaller international office after gaining a few years’ experience. In those circumstances, it may be advantageous to offer international placements as a means of identifying law students with the appropriate long-term professional aspirations — as long as those students understand in advance that they would be expected to start their careers in one of the firm’s larger offices. Such placements can help build intra-office connections, foster a globally minded workforce and introduce future associates to their colleagues in other jurisdictions at an early stage. MANAGING EXPECTATIONS While the U.S. law school grapevine may prepare students for what they should expect from a traditional “big firm” summer associate program, international placements will require the recruiting team to manage expectations to a greater degree. The summer associates may be the center of attention in a U.S. firm, but students spending time in international offices of non-U.S.-based firms may be surprised to learn that they are a relatively small minority within a larger institution that does not revolve around its U.S. summer associate program. Likewise, the expectations of the non-U.S. partners and associates in those offices may need to be managed, as the U.S. recruiting process can be significantly different than what they would expect for locally qualified associates in their jurisdictions. For example, summer associates in the London offices of global firms may overlap with the “vacation scheme” for trainee applicants, which tend to be a more traditional internship without all of the pageantry and entertainment of a U.S. summer associate program. Even in the international offices of a U.S.-based firm, there typically will be more limited resources for running a summer associate program and fewer formal training courses, pro bono opportunities and the like. Before sending students to international offices for a summer associate stint, it is critically important to ensure that the students (and the partners and associates in their host offices) know what to expect — and what not to expect. While the recruiting team may be entitled to a well-deserved break following the completion of the summer associate program, the recruiting process does not end when the summer associates return to school in the fall. The success of a summer associate program ultimately is determined by whether the former summer associates accept their offers of full-time employment. If former summer associates are considering offers to join international offices, the recruiting team should be prepared to discuss with such students the relative advantages and disadvantages of an immediate international posting (as compared to starting one’s career in a U.S. office), taking into account practice area and geographical hiring needs, and should consider whether short-term secondments or an office rotation system may address the applicants’ interest in an international work experience while preserving consistency and depth of training. A global recruiting program presents unique benefits and challenges for the international law firm. Such issues as managing head count and maintaining quality control and consistent recruitment standards can seem particularly difficult when a recruitment team must satisfy the staffing needs of multiple international offices for a large global law firm. As firms continue to expand their cross-border reach, the need to incorporate a more global recruitment strategy and summer program will become increasingly imperative. A centralized recruitment effort and seamless intra-office communication are key to handling all of these issues successfully. Josh Berick is the recruitment partner, and Jennifer Katz-Hickman is the recruitment coordinator, for the U.S. practice of Linklaters. Both are based in the firm’s New York office.

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