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John Anaipakos needs help. In charge of hiring at Baker Botts’ Houston office, his recruitment team this summer is heading to Southern Methodist University in Dallas and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, two schools that historically have not made his office’s on-campus interview tour. A robust legal market and declining law school enrollment are prompting 687-attorney Baker Botts and other top firms across the country to rework their on-campus interview strategies, whether it means hitting new schools, scheduling more interviews at their favorite stops or considering students who fall outside their usual hiring qualifications. At the same time, law schools have started scheduling interview sessions earlier-often starting the first week in August-to enable students to meet with potential employers without the worry of missing classes. The upshot is that many law firm recruiting departments are spread thin, as they simultaneously usher out this summer’s associates and hunt for next year’s class. “We’ve expanded our universe,” Anaipakos said. “It stretches us a bit.” Calling all alumni Baker Botts needs about 70 summer associates to fill its ranks in its Houston office next year. The firm makes interview trips to the usual big-name schools, including Yale, Stanford and Harvard law schools. It also relies on regional schools to meet its needs, including Texas Tech University School of Law and the University of Oklahoma College of Law. This year, its recruiters will travel to University of Notre Dame Law School, Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and Emory University School of Law in Atlanta. Baker Botts in the past has hired a few students from those schools, but a tight associate market means the firm will visit their campuses to seek out promising candidates. Baker Botts has not reached the point where it will consider students who fall short of its academic requirements (“we have resisted the urge to do anything like that,” Anaipakos said), but it has raised associate base salaries to $140,000 to keep pace with firms on the East and West coasts that have upped their starting pay. It also is calling on its attorneys who are alumni from the schools it visits to help conduct on-campus interviews to spread the Baker Botts message, and it is considering adding more staff to its recruiting department. Confronting the Houston-based firm and other firms across the country is a job market that is encouraging for law students but vexing for employers. In 2005, gross revenue for the nation’s 100 most profitable law firms rose to $51 billion, a 10.6% increase compared with 2004, according to The American Lawyer, an affiliate of The National Law Journal. Revenues per partner climbed to $725,626, up 7.4% compared to 2004. At the same time, law school applications dropped last year for the first time since 1997. Some 4.6% fewer people applied to law schools in 2005, according to the Law School Admission Council. Meanwhile, on-campus recruiting for fall 2005 went up, according to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), which found that half of the law schools nationwide reported an increase of 5% or more in the number of employers on campus. Joshua Burstein, associate dean for career services at the University of Richmond School of Law, said his school is catching the eye of more law firms these days. For the first time, Haynes and Boone of Dallas will hold on-campus interviews at the school this fall, he said. In addition, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Bingham McCutchen will visit the campus for the first time this year, said Burstein. “Law firms don’t have to limit themselves,” he said. To meet the hiring demands, some firms are expanding their reach by boosting remote interviewing technology. Minneapolis-based Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi and Cleveland-based Ulmer & Berne have joined several other firms and law schools in signing up with Law School Connect, a videoconferencing network that links firms and schools for live interviews. “It’s hard for a firm of our size to get out to all of the schools,” said Munir Meghjee, chairman of the hiring committee at 266-attorney Robins Kaplan. “It’s a chance to get in front of the widest range of candidates.” At Troutman Sanders, recruiting attorneys have been polishing their interviewing skills for this month’s first round of interviews at the 12 schools the firm’s Atlanta home office visits, said Ashley Hager, chairwoman of the hiring committee for the 568-attorney firm. “We’ve tried to minimize what I call the ‘fluff’ of an interview,” she said. “We don’t want them to come in and talk about how the school’s football team is doing.” The firm last year started interview training sessions for attorneys, in part to help them to determine which candidates likely are interested in staying with the firm long term. For instance, hiring partners received pointers on how to ask students to identify what they would like to do besides practice law. If their answers are “too passionate” about other interests, it may be a signal that they will eventually stray from the profession, Hager said. In addition, if students proclaim that they eventually want to have their own firm, then a large-firm practice likely is not a good match, she said. One of the tricky areas in today’s interviews is dealing with the work-life balance issue, Hager said. Students are getting bolder in asking about the firm’s commitment to such a balance, and it is critical to relay an accurate message, she said. “We will tell people that we want them to have a sophisticated practice and enjoy a personal life, but sometimes that’s interpreted as, ‘You don’t have to work hard.’ ” Hager said. “ What we try to make clear is that if you come to Troutman Sanders, you’re going to work hard, but you will do so in an environment where people care about you.” Shervin Lalezary, a second-year student at University of Southern California Law School, plans to ask the dozens of firms that he expects to interview with this fall about work-life balance, through questions “worded the right way,” he said. “I hope to hear that you get to have some of your weekends,” he said. 78% attrition rate How long associates stay with the firm is something else Lalezary wants to know, he said, to help determine a firm’s culture. In addition to dealing with fewer law school applicants in a strong legal market, finding associates who want to remain at a firm for the long haul is a big part of the recruiting challenge, said Christine White, a co-founder of the NALP and director of professional personnel at Nixon Peabody. “Gone are the days of ‘I know it when I see it,’ ” she said. According to NALP, the attrition rate for associates last year in private law firms was 78% for those who had worked at firms for about five years, compared with 60% in 2000. The average annual attrition rate for all associates last year was 19%, compared with 16% in 2000. Like other firms, Nixon Peabody has added more interview sessions to the schools it visits and this year is providing more hospitality rooms at some of those schools to help differentiate the firm. Hospitality rooms, hosted by firms during the week of on-campus interview sessions, are located at hotels near law schools or on the campuses themselves. They give attorneys more time with potential hires by providing refreshments or, in some cases, cocktail receptions.

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