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Two years ago, Dara Less was wrapping up a clerkship for a federal judge and scouring the landscape for work at a Philadelphia law firm. Today, as only a second-year associate at Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin, she finds herself on the other side of the job-search equation. The 28-year-old litigator balances a full caseload with her role as hiring attorney. Less serves as the primary contact for law students during the recruitment process, handling most of the interviewing chores, reference checks and summer associate program oversight. While she only makes recommendations to the rest of the hiring committee about candidates, her responsibilities exceed those of the average second-year associate. More experienced lateral-associate candidates are often disarmed by her age when coming in for an interview, Less said, and she believes that benefits both candidates and the firm. Because a law student or associate might feel less intimidated around her than they would in the company of a senior partner, her interviews are often relaxed, frank discussions where the candidate asks blunt questions and Less can get a clearer picture about what he or she is thinking. “People come into my office with questions they might not ask [firm name partners] Dan Segal or Bill Hangley. They want to know, ‘What’s it really like here?’ And I tell them that I’ve been here for a year and eight months and I’ve already cross-examined witnesses and sat second chair during a trial. A lot of big firms will tell you they give you responsibility. But it’s a whole other thing to actually hear it from someone who’s living it rather than a partner.” Hangley Aronchick chairman William Hangley, with whom Less has worked on several cases, said he remembers the stock answers he received from hiring partners when he was a law student. And he thinks recruits will be able to open up more with Less than they would with a senior partner. He said entrusting her with such an important responsibility fits into the context of a simple motto he has. “You hire good people, and you trust them,” Hangley said. “She’s a wonderful portal to the firm because she gives an honest but enthusiastic picture of the firm. And we rely on Dara’s judgments because she has a good sense of people.” A Cherry Hill native and daughter of Jeffrey Less of Bazelon Less & Feldman, Less graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994 and George Washington University Law School three years later. She spent a year clerking for Edward N. Cahn, the now-retired Chief U.S. Judge of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania who now serves as of counsel at Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley. She chose the 32-attorney Hangley Aronchick, a smaller firm with big-firm pay and work, because she believed she would get significant responsibility on sophisticated work early in her career in a hospitable atmosphere. In addition to her hiring responsibilities, Less has handled a variety of cases. She worked with John Summers in successfully representing the Philadelphia Board of Elections in the failed voter fraud suit concerning City Council member Darrell Clarke. She also worked with Hangley in the successful representation of Swartz Campbell & Detweiler, which emerged victorious in a suit against a departing partner for breach of contract and fiduciary duty. Less is not the only Hangley Aronchick associate to hold a position of responsibility. Virtually every firm committee, including the executive committee, includes at least one associate. It’s just that her position throws her into the role of contact with recruits at a time when recruitment is more competitive than ever. On top of her own experiences, Less taps into her personal network of friends at other firms to get an accurate picture of what potential laterals and law students endure with their jobs and the recruitment process. “Recruiting is such a changing environment, and I don’t think that senior partners can completely understand what law students are going through today,” Less said. “I know what they’re thinking. I have friends at other places [firms or companies] who are just starting out. And I doubt people like Bill or Dan do. “I think [law students] are a little apprehensive about things. If they’re going to a firm that’s increased their salaries or relaxed the dress, they want to know if they’re going to be expected to work more hours. Or if the economy has a downswing, are there going to be layoffs? It’s become increasingly harder for them to distinguish between firms, so they are looking for as much honest information about what life is really like at a firm as they can get.”

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