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During these tough economic times, legal employers need to assess their recruitment practices and make appropriate adjustments. Most firms have either implemented or considered implementing cost-cutting measures. Despite the cutbacks that have occurred, the overwhelming majority of legal employers continue their law school recruitment programs. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Law Placement regarding belt-tightening measures, only 1.4 percent of responding employers eliminated on-campus interviews in 2001. In contrast, 42.3 percent of respondents reduced the use of legal search consultants and 15.7 percent have eliminated their use altogether. In “A Recruitment Strategy for a Changing, Uncertain Economy” [see related item from Texas Lawyer], Lauren Eaton Prescott maintains, “The savvy firm’s strategy for cutting costs, and, therefore, costs-per-partner, while promoting maximum market responsiveness, is to diminish or eliminate its law school recruiting program in favor of a stronger and more strategic lateral recruitment program, supplemented by the selective usage of project attorneys.” In actuality, few legal employers nationwide have turned their backs on law schools despite tough times. Why? It is because savvy employers realize that law schools are the leading source for new talent. Firms — big and small — know that being a presence on campus is a critical component for their future success. It affords them the opportunity to recruit new talent, market the firm and keep a finger on the pulse of the new generation of lawyers. Recruiting law students is a great way to build a vibrant practice. Law students and recent graduates bring energy, enthusiasm and a fresh perspective to the work environment. Summer clerkships are a great opportunity for firms to observe a student and see if he or she fits in with the work environment. While one of the benefits of hiring newly minted lawyers is that firms have an opportunity to mold new associates into the kind of lawyers they want them to be, most students use law school as a time to gain not just an academic understanding of the law but also hands-on work experience. Many Texas law schools have fantastic clinics designed to provide students with dynamic experiential learning opportunities. Although Prescott asserts that “firms are finding that many law school graduates don’t know what they want to do or where they want to do it when they’re fresh out of school,” most law students do have a good idea of what they want to do upon graduation in part because they have actually done it. Summer clerkships, clinics, externships and pro bono opportunities allow students to gain the experience they need to hit the ground running when they begin practice. Yes, new attorneys have a learning curve and will look to their employers for mentoring and guidance, but they neither want nor need hand-holding. Most new lawyers expect to work hard and are at a place in their lives where they can devote the time and energy necessary to excel in the practice of law. Law school recruiting makes sense for all sizes and types of legal employers. Law students are interested in a variety of practice areas and work environments. The time is right for small and midsize firms, government agencies and public interest organizations to gain an edge in recruiting. During the boom, some students were lured to employers that waved the most money at them. Times have changed, and students are more focused than ever. One of the lessons that many firms learned during the past decade was to continue law school recruiting through a slump to ensure that they are not understaffed when the market rebounded. COMMIT AND CONTRIBUTE Law school recruiting is one of the best and most cost-effective forms of marketing. It signals to the next generation of lawyers that a firm is stable and looking toward the future. It gets a firm’s name out and allows the firm’s lawyers to brag a bit. Send attorneys who truly love what they do to recruit on campus. This helps build a firm’s reputation because the impression these attorneys make stays with students as they mature into lawyers and throughout their legal career. Employers who come on campus now position themselves to gain competitive advantage and market themselves to students whom they may not have reached during the boom. Law school recruiting comes in many forms and need not be costly. Most law schools provide firms with myriad opportunities throughout the year to meet and recruit students. And, law school career services professionals will help firms meet their recruitment needs without assessing a headhunter fee of up to 40 percent of a candidate’s starting salary. The growing use of technology to facilitate virtual interviews further enables schools to provide firms with cost-effective recruitment options. Those at small firms, government agencies and public service organizations may feel that budget constraints do not allow them to “wine and dine” potential hires. The good news is that most students do not need an expensive courtship to make a commitment. The majority of law students and recent graduates look for an opportunity to contribute to a team, to be given early responsibility, and to perform meaningful and intellectually stimulating work. During these tough economic times, a partnership with law schools is an essential part of a firm’s recruitment strategy. Kathryn Holt Richardson, J.D., is the assistant dean for career services at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin. She is dedicated to connecting law students and legal employers. For more information about recruiting law students, contact her at [email protected].

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