Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has a new top recruiter, and he’s got Instagram.
In January, the Los Angeles-based firm named former associate John O’Hara, 34, as its new chief recruiting officer. He replaces Leslie Ripley, who retired after nearly 41 years at the firm.
O’Hara, who joined the firm as a first-year associate in 2012, rejoins Gibson Dunn in LA after several years as in-house counsel at talent agency William Morris Endeavor. As chief recruiting officer, he will oversee its global recruiting efforts from the summer program to fall on-campus interviews to lateral associate and lateral partner hiring across its 20 offices.
The American Lawyer caught up with O’Hara—whose LinkedIn page cites “cheesemaking” and “brewery yoga” among his interests—to ask what his background and his status as a millennial could mean for the firm’s recruiting efforts.
Your predecessor spent four decades as the firm’s chief recruiting officer. What new ideas or energy do you think you bring to the role?
Leslie started in February 1978, and she recruited 9,047 attorneys throughout her time here. When she started the firm had fewer than 300 lawyers, and now we’re over 1,300 lawyers.
I view this as a change in perspective from what Leslie has done because what I bring to the role is really a different background—not only an active attorney, but an associate who went through the recruiting process here, who knows inside and out what it looks like from the law student side, from the firm side, and someone who came from an in-house position and someone who was an alum of the firm. So to me it’s less about being a millennial and more about that.
What challenges do you think Big Law faces in recruiting its next generation of talent? How do you plan to address them?
I think every law firm faces the challenges of just learning how to articulate what makes it unique and what makes it special. Beyond that, there are always challenges facing the legal industry, and I think we’re in a good moment where people are looking to do the right thing with everything from wellness to diversity, which is what makes this such an exciting role.
For us, I think that’s our main thing, and for me specifically, it’s to be able to articulate authentically why I came here and why I think that this is the best place I could have started a legal career, and why I want to bring more people in and give them the same opportunities I had.
Are there new tools that you plan on using to market the firm to law students and prospective hires?
So we’ve been thinking about what ways there are that we can get more information out there about us in a genuine way. One of those things, and it’s a simple step, is we started an Instagram account earlier this year. That’s nascent, but we plan to use it as we go through our on-campus events, summer programmings and in-office events. That’s another source of information, along with Linkedin and our website, to get information out there so law students can really see what it means to be a part of the Gibson Dunn community.
I’m always open to new ones. Being at Endeavor, it was eye-opening for me as a 34-year-old, hearing about things I had never heard about. Right now, we’re looking at Instagram, LinkedIn, our website, obviously Vault.com.
Another thing that we can do to get that information out there, and something that we started doing more is on-campus programming that’s tailored to specific facets of the firm and the firm’s practice. So earlier this year we started rolling out pro bono panels that highlight our immigration work on things like DACA repeal and reunifications of families separated at the border.
I’m using all of those things in a combined effort to make sure that law students get just as much information and as much visibility about who we are and what we do as possible … Instagram is a small step, but we’re thinking about other ways that we can get information out there in an authentic way.
What are your top priorities or goals as Gibson Dunn’s chief recruiting officer?
Right now, to be honest, I’m still on a listening tour. I know the firm, I know the firm’s culture, I’m part of the Gibson Dunn community, and I’ve never left.
Top of mind is enhancing community, and enhancing community means everything from showing law students who we are—getting information out there so from our first interaction they have an idea of what makes us special [and] what’s in our DNA.
Another thing on the other side of that community is getting alumni more involved. Like me—I stayed in touch with people, and that’s how I heard about this job in the first place.
Q&As are condensed and lightly edited for style, grammar and clarity.