Susan Estrich, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partner
Susan Estrich, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partner ()

SAN FRANCISCO — If nothing else, Quinn Emanuel wanted to stop wasting time.

So in 2012, the Los Angeles-based litigation firm quit participating in on-campus interviews to recruit summer associates and started throwing parties instead, which firm leader John Quinn said would be “more fun and more likely to produce good matches.”

The move, breaking with the traditional model for summer recruitment, caused a stir. But according to career development officials at UC-Berkeley School of Law, it hasn’t exactly caught on with other large law firms, who dutifully make the rounds during fall interviews.

But Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is still on the party circuit. Now in its third year, the firm just wrapped up a series of soirees on more than a dozen law school campuses.

The new model works better, according to Quinn Emanuel partner Susan Estrich, allowing lawyers to interact with three times as many students and drawing a pool of more diverse and more interested applicants.

It’s also cut out what Estrich considers one of the realities of OCI: “Most of the time, it doesn’t matter what [students] say.”

Largely, that has to do with résumé screening. Estrich, who heads up the firm’s summer recruiting, is blunt about what the firm looks for: the top of the class from the top law schools. When students who didn’t fit that profile would walk into interviews, it was a lose-lose situation.

But that’s where rubbing elbows with some of Quinn Emanuel’s partners can help. Though Estrich said she’d never heard of a situation where a gaffe at a party threw a student out of consideration, mingling at one of Quinn Emanuel’s events can work in the opposite way: if a student’s grades are “a little off,” a connection made at the party might help him or her get a callback.

Lawyers such as Estrich also make no bones about what it takes to succeed in their trial-tested ranks. “Litigation is a zero-sum game. There is a winner and a loser,” the firm’s website states. And free food and drink aside—what law student can say no?—the point is to give students a feel for the firm without subjecting them to the third degree.

“They don’t have to do a tap dance in 20 minutes to prove that they have rigorously researched the firm. They just can come,” Estrich said.

In 2012, Quinn Emanuel partied at six schools. This year, it hit 13 campuses, promoting its event with an invitation that featured the firm’s shark fin logo and urged students to dress casually “of course.”

Quinn Emanuel accepts applications for its summer class following the parties and holds callback interviews during the summer. The firm then extends its offers before other law firms have even started interviewing.

For 2014, Quinn will have about 60 summers, with 10 in the Los Angeles office, 10 in San Francisco, and eight in Silicon Valley. The others will be in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

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