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It’s no longer the days of wine and roses for law students as the nation’s law firms reconsider how best to woo the brightest while keeping an eye on their pocketbooks. Historically, firms have relied on the on-campus interview (OCI) process to cherry-pick potential associates. But in these challenging economic times, many firms are looking for efficiencies wherever they can find them. Increasingly law firms are following the lead of corporate America and are hiring professional recruiting directors and professional-development administrators, according to Marci Krufka, a Newtown Square, Pa.-based consultant with Altman Weil, Inc. At large firms, the days of the inefficient recruiting committee appear to be numbered. Strategies for keeping recruiting expenses under control include sharing costs with other firms, reducing the number of law schools visited, calling back fewer candidates, cost-sharing with other firms, and training interviewers to be most effective. COOPERATING WITH COMPETITORS Laura MacDougall Kader, senior lawyer recruiter at Seattle-based Perkins Coie, estimates that each callback candidate costs the firm up to $1,200 for expenses, such as hotel, meals, entertainment, and transportation. “If we are the host firm, we ask if (the candidates) are going to be meeting with other firms in town,” she explains. The candidate submits a form showing out-of-pocket expenses incurred, and indicates the other firms visited on that trip. Perkins Coie then bills the other firms, generally splitting the costs evenly. For example, if a student visits firms in San Francisco in addition to Seattle, Perkins Coie often will share the candidate’s airfare and perhaps other costs with Bay Area firms, she says. Most firms have guidelines based on those of the National Association for Law Placement that specify for the student what costs the firm will bear. Cost-sharing on callbacks is common among large Denver firms, says Kimberly McCoy, recruitment coordinator for Sherman & Howard, based in Denver. “[But] we’ll fly them out anyway if we like them,” says McCoy. The National Association for Law Placement’s “Principles and Standards for Law Placement and Recruitment Activities” can be found on its Web site at www.nalp.org/pands/pands.htm. THE BUDGET TRAVELER Many firms are cutting back on traditional callback perks. Perkins Coie asks candidates to use taxis and public transit rather than car rentals. “We also ask that candidates book their travel with our in-house agents, taking advantage of 14-day advance ticketing,” says Kader. LESS IS MORE Firms are cutting back on the number of schools they visit, and how many people they send, says Linda Green Pierce, president of Northwest Legal Search Inc., based in Portland, Ore. “Hiring budgets have been tight and carefully watched,” says Green Pierce, who recruits lawyers for large West Coast firms and international corporations. Some firms no longer automatically send alumni to visit schools, and are cutting back on the number of OCIs, she observes. “Now they’re asking, ‘What’s the return? Let’s be at the top 15 (schools) instead of 20.’” For example, 620-attorney Perkins Coie, has centralized much of its recruiting, reports Kader. In the past, each of its 15 offices handled recruiting efforts. Now the firm as a whole targets about 30 schools and three or four job fairs. And it asks staff from the Washington, D.C. office to handle the firm’s visits to some East Coast schools, such as the University of Virginia and Duke University. David Byer, hiring partner of Boston’s Testa Hurwitz & Thibeault, says his firm tries to manage its recruiting expenses by exercising common sense. “For example, we try to coordinate recruiting trips to schools located near each other, thus minimizing travel and wear and tear on interviewers.” Not everybody is happy with the cutbacks, especially smaller law schools, such as Rogers School of Law at the University of Arizona. Assistant Dean Mary Birmingham reports that some out-of-state employers, who used to be regulars, are declining to attend, citing tight finances. “They had to drop out because of travel costs,” she says. DOUBLING UP Robert Williams, hiring partner for Los Angeles-based 400-attorney Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, says his eight-office firm uses a combination of recruiting committee members as well as both partners and associates who volunteer. To be sure that the firm is sensitive to diversity issues, Sheppard Mullin likes to double-up. “We try to send two-lawyer teams to do on-campus interviews,” Williams says, with the goal of having each team achieve some balance in terms of seniority, gender and practice specialty. “We go to too many schools to fill all the interviewer positions with recruiting committee members. We try to send people who are alumni of the schools, who are perceptive interviewers and who are likely to make a good impression on the students,” says Williams. SOLID INVESTMENT While firms are looking for opportunities to save money, they also realize the import of face-to-face meetings, and recognize that they are investing in their own future. OCI visits and callback interviews represent “a big expense, but we also recognize that it is one of the most critical functions of a law firm: to replenish itself,” says Byer of Testa, Hurwitz. Byer estimates he spends approximately 500 hours a year on recruiting duties for the 320-lawyer firm. He is aided by five full-time administrative recruiters, and a hiring committee of 16 members (six partners and 10 associates). “We use a combination approach to decide who interviews on which on-campus,” he explains. “We review these selections every year to make sure we are aware of and responsive to any on-campus trends.” Before anyone is sent out to represent the firm at an interview, he or she must attend a training session, and meet with the hiring partner to review procedures, needs and school-specific information. Committee members who are not veterans receive direct, small-group training.

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