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Law firms could learn a thing or two from the way public interest law organizations and government agencies hire new attorneys.

A new report on lawyer hiring, based on surveys of more than 24,000 attorneys, identifies a deep disconnect between the way most of the legal industry hires new attorneys and the qualities they say they value most highly — a gap the public interest sphere has largely managed to avoid.

Alli-Gerkman Alli Gerkman

Public interest organizations, which generally look beyond Big Law hiring criteria such as class rank and law review participation, “don’t have the ability to make mistakes in hiring,” said Alli Gerkman, director of Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers, an initiative of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, which produced the report. “They’re small. They’re lean. Every single hire they make can have a positive or negative impact on the organization.”

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