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Speed Dating Hits Law Firm

Vivia Chen

September 5, 2016

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If you've been in the throes of on-campus interviews, you're probably sick of the game by now. Though those sessions usually last no more than 20 or 25 minutes, they often feel like slow torture. Within three minutes, you can probably tell whether the firm is interested in you or if the interviewer would rather take a prolonged bathroom break.

As a general rule, if a firm is rigid about grade requirements and you're grades aren't up to snuff, the interviewer will signal boredom, disdain, contempt. I remember a partner who told me talking to me was a complete waste of time because my grades weren't high enough for his firm. He then railed against my law school (NYU) because it didn't allow firms to prescreen students for grades. (Fun fact: this firm went belly up.)

But even if you get congenial interviewers, those 20 minute gigs can feel awfully long—particularly if you're doing multiple interviews. For instance, at NYU Law School, each student has about two dozen interviews during a three day period. One NYU 3-L told me he had 11 interviews in one day. And the situation isn't better for the interviewer who's basically imprisoned in a windowless room for hours, forced to be nice to a bunch of clueless law students.

So how about speeding up the process and cutting to the chase—fueled by a bit of alcohol?

New York's Herrick Feinstein (a firm of about 140 lawyers with profits per partner of $900,000) is doing just that. Recently, it invited 50 students, setting them loose at a cocktail party. They mingled freely for 30 minutes with the firm's lawyers and each other. Then, with drinks in hand, each student picked a bar table and chatted up a hiring committee member for five minutes. (Students were told to come prepared with an elevator pitch on why they should be hired.) After five minutes, a bell rang, and students moved to a new table to meet another lawyer. Repeat.

What usually takes a whole day for a firm to do was over in two hours! (The event started at 6:30 and ended at 8:30.) Plus, job hunters and employers can do their shtick while pleasantly inebriated.

But aren't some students put off by this quick and dirty approach? Not at all, according to John Goldman, cochair of Herrick's hiring committee, and Alexis Zager, the firm's HR manager. "We had so much fun, and students loved it because they got to meet many more people," says Goldman. "We also had the ability to watch people in competition with each other and see how they play in the sandbox." Zager adds that the speed interviewing evening has yielded "more success" for accepted call-backs than on-campus interviews.

Still, there are skeptics. "I personally don't like the idea," says the NYU 3-L. "It's hard enough to learn anything about a firm in 20 minutes." An  Am Law 100 partner sniffs: "That's not for us. It seems like they're treating it like a game show." That said, this partner admits that on-campus interviews are inefficient and take a big commitment of time.

"Whether other firms do it doesn't matter for me," says Goldman. "Law firms are resistant to change, but we think of ourselves as different, and we wanted to do something fun."

I don't think there's anything sacrosanct about the rite of on-campus interviews. Hey, if speed interviewing enlivens the process and everyone ends up with a decent match, what's wrong with that?

 vchen@alm.com

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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