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And now for something completely different — a Wall Street law firm with a sense of humor when it comes to attracting young attorneys. Consider, for example, this hot-off-the-press pitch from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan to law students seeking that first step on the career ladder: “The Stroock summer associate program: Glamorous work, lavish meals, theatre tickets. Your basic deal with the devil.” And further: “You are about to become a lawyer. Think about it: This may be the last time anyone is totally up front and 80 percent honest with you.” Even more: “As a first-year, you may feel like a fire hydrant. Here, at least, you’re a well-respected fire hydrant.” There is method behind what others might consider madness. Before Andi Benjamin and Jim Ponichtera sat down to noodle about a snappy new Web site and accompanying snappy print materials with the folks at a hip San Francisco design firm, they took considerable pains to satisfy themselves — and more importantly, to satisfy Stroock managing partner Thomas E. Heftler — that the hiring zeitgeist had changed dramatically. “We talked with [campus] placement people, we talked with students,” said Benjamin, 47, the acting chief marketing officer at Stroock. “And we talked with our own associates.” Basically, this is what she and Ponichtera found: � About 90 percent of law school students seek information about a given law firm by consulting its Web site. This was nowhere near the case even five years ago, the two believe. � Big law firms seem all the same. Ponichtera, 34, Stroock’s communications director and a former associate at Los Angeles-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, said, “The feeling I got was that [students] accept as a necessary evil that firms will say essentially the same thing.” � Clich�-ridden brochures — recruitment staples — seem to have the significance and life span of cafeteria sandwich wrappers. CREATIVE BREAKTHROUGH Benjamin, a non-lawyer, dismissed such staples as “puff pieces.” While a given firm’s partnership may be comfortable with puffery, she suggested, attorneys often “have no idea what motivates their audience.” And so, “We started by asking: What’s wrong with the way law firms are going about communicating benefits and features to future partners?” she said. “We don’t have the deepest pockets, and we don’t [recruit] at every single school. So how do we create a breakthrough, how do we cut through the clutter? “I believe in the old maxim,” Benjamin added. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Due to insanity, Benjamin suggested, “We found that [students] by and large are very skeptical and very cynical. A lot of what they get by way of impressions is through word of mouth and [Internet] bulletin boards. That’s pretty superficial. Students universally told us they don’t even look at brochures. “Good lawyers know you should stay close to your customers,” she said. “A student is just another customer of the firm. So knowing the customer helps. And so, the assumption that we needed a new brochure for this year’s recruiting season went out the window.” With the critical blessing of Heftler — along with other senior partners — Benjamin and Ponichtera decided on spoofery as the new strategy for Stroock’s recruiting efforts. INTERPRETING THE LANGUAGE For example, Stroock’s new Web site offers practical translations between Recruitspeak and plain English. When law firm recruiters say, “At our firm, we work on cutting-edge matters,” the actual skinny is, “This is true for many firms. The real question is: What will your role be in these ‘cutting-edge matters?’ Making law can be thrilling; making photocopies of new law, not so. Remember, everyone has to pay his or her dues.” Or when recruiters say, “We’re a tight-knit group. You’re going to be a part of the family,” students are advised, “Look in your wallet. Do you really want to see pictures of your co-workers in those glossy folds? “Granted, it helps if they pass the roommate test — especially if you find yourself sharing an office with them. What you really want, though, is a place with colleagues whom you like, respect and from whom you can learn.” Much of the sardonic language and tone of Stroock’s new materials, said Benjamin, came straight from research interviews with students and firm associates. She turned over the findings to Cahan Associates of San Francisco. The consultant, working with input from Benjamin and Ponichtera, produced prototypes reviewed and approved by Heftler, among other higher-ups. “It wasn’t hard to get management to realize that recruiting new people is the firm’s lifeblood,” said Ponichtera. Benjamin, who consulted for Stroock for 10 years before taking the marketing post two years ago, elaborated. “I know this partnership very, very well,” she said. “People who want to be involved step right up. If you include people who are vital and interested in participating, you can make change. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. “After all, this is radical marketing for a very conservative firm,” she said. “It also happens to be very smart marketing.” Apparently so. Even though the recruiting section of Stroock’s Web site www.stroock.com/join.htm is not fully launched — five of six humorous panels are now live, with the first one activated on Aug. 26 — Ponichtera said the hit rate has increased 100 percent. Benjamin credits the deft humor in the panels. “It entertains one’s intelligence,” she said. Jacquelyn J. Burt, assistant dean for the Center for Professional Development at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, concurred. As she put it: “I think it’s high time someone had a sense of humor!”

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