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Virginia Iglesia, a second-year law student at Emory University in Atlanta, is exactly the type of talent Greenberg Traurig’s aggressive new recruitment program is designed to lure. Iglesia, who’s from Miami, had offers to do summer associate stints in either Miami or New York City and felt torn. Greenberg was one of the firms that made her an offer. She decided to go with Greenberg. The deciding factor was that Greenberg allowed her to split her time between the firm’s Miami and New York City offices � without requiring her to reinterview with the New York office, as usually is required in such arrangements. “I think for me the biggest difference is they were making decisions very quickly,” says Iglesias, who notes that none of the New York firms were able to offer her a similar split-time arrangement. Staying ahead in the intense battle to recruit the best young lawyers has led Greenberg Traurig to a new, faster, and more colorful approach on law school campuses. During the recently completed recruiting season for 2005 summer associates, the 1,200-lawyer firm, which ranked 25 in gross revenues on the 2004 Am Law 100 list, revamped its approach to recruiting summer associates and associates fresh out of law school. Greenberg’s new approach includes catchier written materials, on-the-spot callbacks, greater flexibility for prospective hires, and even a challenge modeled on the hit reality TV show “The Apprentice.” Snaring law students like Iglesia � who has a master’s degree in mass communication and helped create a bilingual portal on the Internet � is what the new recruiting approach is geared for. “We want to attract someone who’s entrepreneurial in nature, someone who’s independent,” says Matthew Gorson, the firm’s national operating shareholder, based at Greenberg’s Miami office. “This is not a firm with a bureaucratic environment. This is a firm that wants to give its younger lawyers a lot of responsibility.” The recruiting changes were spurred by the increased competitiveness in recruiting that came in the 1990s and by the firm’s new focus on law school hiring over lateral recruiting. Before that, Greenberg could count on scooping up many of the top law students coming out of the University of Miami. But the 1990s brought “the greedy lawyer, dot-com craze, and the demand for law students became intense,” Gorson says. “Big firms started hiring larger groups, and University of Miami graduates could go anywhere in the country.” At the same time that law school recruiting became more competitive, Greenberg began to grow, expanding from 300 lawyers in seven offices seven years ago to 1,200 lawyers in 22 offices today. During that period of rapid expansion, Greenberg relied more on lateral hiring to increase its ranks. But now that growth has stabilized, the firm is renewing its focus on law school hiring. INSTANT DECISIONS Carol Allen, Greenberg’s New York-based chief recruitment officer, says the new program was partially born out of the firm’s lateral recruiting tactics, which emphasized the firm’s culture in luring candidates. While other firms focus on expanding through mergers, Allen says, Greenberg was looking to hire individual lawyers who could fit into the culture of the firm. In its effort this year to expand law school recruiting, Greenberg deployed senior attorneys to conduct interviews on 30 campuses around the country. And it let law students know at the end of the interview whether they were going to be on the shortlist. The attorneys Greenberg sent out to conduct the campus interviews were “very senior” members of the firm who were empowered to make an instant decision. “One of the things our firm is known for is making decisions quick and lack of bureaucracy,” Allen says. “We wanted that to show in the interviewing process.” In addition, all interviewees this year received a small, hard-cover book, filled with photos and slogans illustrated by images. One such slogan was illustrated by a splattered tomato. It read “Squash bureaucracy.” “You could look at it as being very juvenile, or you could look at it as being very different,” Gorson says. “I think we got a huge buzz on campuses. It’s an innovative way of sitting there and talking about the serious business of law.” The marketing and new approach to interviewing had a dual purpose � to reflect the firm’s culture while appealing to the young law students. Raffaele Murdocca, Southeast regional managing director of BCG Attorney Search, a national recruiting firm, predicts that approaches like Greenberg’s could become more common in coming years. “Years ago, I would have said [law firms] don’t market very well,” Murdocca says. “They would just come on campus and you have to know who they are. There was no real branding. I think in a lot of cases, young students end up in law firms where they really didn’t know what the culture was.” Citing statistics that 40 percent of associates leave their first job in two years, Murdocca says that Greenberg’s effort to get their culture out in the open could be a solution to retention problems. “I think it’s something new. I think they are on the front lines of this. If they see it as successful, I think this trend will continue.” But not all law firms see themselves moving in that direction. John Camp, a shareholder in Carlton Fields’ Miami office and member of the firm’s recruiting and retention committee, doubts that his firm would go in the direction of a nontraditional marketing campaign. “It might be something that other firms are doing, but I don’t see Carlton Fields doing it,” Camp says. “We feel pretty comfortable with our place. We are who we market ourselves to be. I don’t see us going to specific marketing gimmicks.” J. Thomas Cardwell, chairman of Akerman Senterfitt, says his firm also plans to rely on more traditional recruiting tactics. “I don’t see any dramatic changes from the fundamental idea that you go up there, you meet them, and you try to find the best people for your firm and your culture,” Cardwell says. “We don’t have ‘This is Akerman culture’ brochures there, but we describe that to students as we talk to them.” ‘YOU’RE HIRED!’ Using its new campaign, Greenberg ultimately recruited 55 students as summer associates for 15 of its offices. But the summer associate hiring for this past summer was done before the new marketing campaign was in place. Most associates were hired the old-fashioned way � through contacts and word of mouth. Still, Greenberg tried something new. To encourage interoffice cooperation, the associates in all of the offices were divided into teams, and each team was given an assignment to complete modeled on “The Apprentice.” That’s the reality TV show in which contestants vie for the approval of real estate mogul Donald Trump by completing tasks as part of a team. The Greenberg summer associate groups worked to complete projects in mentoring, training, and business development. But unlike the TV show, there was no competitive element and no one barked “You’re fired.” Instead the associates presented their work to a gathering of Greenberg shareholders, who brought in a Donald Trump assistant, George Ross, as an adviser. Some of the recommendations presented by the summer associates are being considered for implementation. “I thought it was a very innovative idea,” Gorson says. Summer programs emphasizing interoffice cooperation and creative projects will continue in 2005, when the first summer associates hired from the new recruiting strategy begin work. Jessica M. Walker is a reporter at Miami Daily Business Review , an ALM publication, where this article first appeared.

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