Tag Archives: recruitment

Debunking The “Science” Of Law Firm Recruitment & Employee Incentives

According to Samuel Arbesman, author of The Half-Life of Facts, science is a ‘terribly human endeavor.’ Flaws exist because of typos, attempts to standardize, and attempts to generalize about facts.

Let’s take, for example, the mantra that children around the world are told: “eat your spinach.” This is because spinach is high in vitamins and minerals vital for the human body. While this is still true, it may not be the power-veggie parents and Popeye are led to believe.

“In 1870, German chemist Erich von Wolf analyzed the iron content of green vegetables and accidentally misplaced a decimal point when transcribing data from his notebook. As a result, spinach was reported to contain a tremendous amount of iron—35 milligrams per serving, not 3.5 milligrams (the true measured value),” recounts David A. Shaywitz for the Wall Street Journal in his review of Arbesman’s book.

“While the error was eventually corrected in 1937, the legend of spinach’s nutritional power had already taken hold, one reason that studio executives chose it as the source of Popeye’s vaunted strength.”

Unlike the stalwart sailor, business leaders can’t adapt a one-size-fits-all spinach strategy when it comes to hiring employees or dolling out incentives.

Job candidates of different genders or ages, for example, look for different things in a job. Also, tenured employees will be motivated differently than newly-hired ones.

With this in mind, what law firm perks will attract the best people?

A recent survey ‘2012 HR Beat: A Survey of the Pulse of Today’s Global Workforce,’ which analyzes results from 1,500 hiring managers and professionals internationally, aims to identify what matters most to employees and job candidates across age, geography, and gender, and—by doing so—resolve the above question.

In a nutshell, women want flexibility while men want money. Surprisingly, Generation X (not Generation “me”, i.e., the Millenials) is the most demanding when it comes to flexibility in work schedules. And finally, Millenials—those born after 1977—are looking for workplaces with mentors and training programs.

If your firm is looking to recruit younger employees, best stick to social media.

At least, all of this is what Karie Willyerd, coauthor of The 2020 Workplace and contributor to the Harvard Business Review, will lead your firm to believe.

So, if knowledge is power, what can your firm learn from Willyerd and her survey results? Willyerd suggests in her article, “Match the Perk to the Person If You Want Great Talent”:

  1. Provide choice. Don’t fax over a once-size-fits-all employment contract. Ask what potential employees want, and look to tailor your engagement or offer letter.
  2. Enhance your ability to reach candidates, who are increasingly online and on a mobile device. It’s not just the Millenials who make use of social media. Your firm will only find the best candidates with the best possible search methods, and recruiting tools that allow automatic individualization in marketing to candidates online at increasingly affordable rates.
  3. Conduct a workforce analysis. Diversify your firm and find out which applicant pool (which generation) to target.
  4. Evaluate your benefits and build a recruiting strategy to match.

It should be clear by now that the marketplace for law is changing. There’s no such thing as “the best strategy” anymore. There’s just the right strategy at the right time.

Be weary of any expert or managing partner who talks about the “facts” of recruitment strategy.

There are few measurable facts these days. Even the height of Mt. Everest isn’t verifiable (colliding continental plates lead to erosion, which wears the mountain down. “The mountain even moves laterally at a rate of about six centimeters a year, thus making both its height and location a ‘mesofact’—a slowly changing piece of knowledge,” summarizes David A. Shaywitz in his Wall Street Journal review of Arbesman’s book).

“Far better than learning facts is learning how to adapt to changing facts,” writes Arbesman (via Wall Street Journal). “Stop memorizing things . . . memories can be outsourced to the cloud.”

“In other words: In a world of information flux, it isn’t what you know that counts—it is how efficiently you can refresh,” Shaywitze concludes in his book review.

For attorneys and firms, following the same cautionary vein, the business of law is an equally terribly human endeavor. So, stop standardizing. Customize. And adapt company perks to your people.


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Three Steps To Getting A Bonus This Year

Yesterday we discussed the “dos and don’ts” of salary negotiations. Although December is generally a month decorated in reds and greens, the latter seems to be most on people’s minds.

Year-end bonuses are on the focus of many lawyers and law firm professionals this month. Although it’s been tough in terms of a hiring freeze and recessed economy, that shouldn’t mean hard work goes unrecognized.

So, use these three steps to get a well-deserved bonus and have happy New Year.

1. Do Good Work  

This step sounds a bit obvious, but keep in mind that standards have raised in 2011, post-economic recession. What sufficed last year will not get a lawyer far in this one.

Make sure your hours are long and productive. If there are ways you can increase your efficiency, then implement them. Maybe you need to close your office door to hallway chatter during the day. Or, eat lunch at your desk once per week.

Your first priority is to do whatever it takes to get noticed for the high quality of your case work.

2. Make Yourself An Invaluable Asset
Lawyers and legal professionals are a firm’s most valuable assets. Human capital drives the successes and losses of a company.

What expertise is still missing at your firm? Identify the missing link, and then become proficient in that skill. If, for example, an important client is a Spanish-speaker, dust off your schoolbooks and refresh your memory.

Perhaps a case requires specific knowledge of the oil or gas industry. Call up an old classmate in the industry and pick his brain.

Becoming an invaluable asset to your firm improves your chances at a bonus, increases your job security, and demonstrates your professional initiative.  

3. Make An Appointment And Arrive Well-Prepared

Finally, when you’re confident about your good work and valuable position with the firm, schedule an appointment with your boss. Bring all appropriate documentation with you.

Don’t be afraid to speak first and explain why you’ve requested the meeting. In the least, it will serve as an excellent opportunity to request constructive criticism on your work or praise for a job well-done.

Develop a relationship with your supervisor. If it doesn’t help you achieve that year-end bonus, it will certainly get you a positive professional recommendation for the future when you move to a job that will.


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Double Agent: Hiring The Right Lawyer For Patent Disputes

Remember when your firm conference called your biggest client on Skype? No? Well, law firms may not always be on the cutting edge of technology, but their corporate clients are.

In fact, 27 percent of women business owners said in 2006 that they would invest in new technology such as computers and software over the next six months, according to OPEN from American Express via Entrepreneur.

And, by 2007, 300,000 entrepreneurs claimed Skype would become their primary means of business communication, according to Albert Lin at American Technology Research via Entrepreneur.

In addition to computer technology, mobile technology over the years has been on the rise. In 2010, business use of mobile IM led to a $2 billion-plus market in Western Europe and North America, according to Strategy Analytics via Entrepreneur.

In the U.S. alone, 31 percent of mobile-phone owners had a smartphone as of December 2010, according to a Nielsen report. The same report expects smartphones to become the majority of all American-owned phones by the end of 2011.

With technology playing such a vital role in the engineering and products of so many companies, patents to protect these business interests have become equally important. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the demand for patent lawyers is on the rise.

According to a Bloomberg Businessweek article today, patent attorneys may account for more than 15 percent of law firm job openings while representing only 3 percent of all U.S. lawyers.

“There is a boom in Intellectual Property (IP) with many openings in what is usually a niche practice,” T.J. Duane, a principal at legal recruitment firm Lateral Link, said in a phone interview to Bloomberg.

In the event qualified candidates are unavailable, Duane believes “some firms may end up closing their positions or repurposing the general practice attorneys to focus on the nontechnical sides of these complex cases.”

Thus, aspiring or current lawyers should consider adding the Patent Bar Exam to their pedigree. Patent Agents are specialized in the preparation, filing, and prosecution of patent applications. Patent attorneys are then uniquely qualified to discuss issues with their clients regarding patent validity, infringement, and IP litigation, to name a few.

A combination of these two expertise—especially for recent law school grads—is just what industry recruiters are looking for. It adds to the level of diversity crucial for stand-out attorneys and interesting legal job candidates.

Hiring patent lawyers is not always a defensive strategy. With so much IP conflict these days, some law firms have gone on the offensive when it comes to gathering new work.

Take, for example, media-dubbed patent troll Innovatio IP Ventures, a new company making news for its attempts to profit from monetary settlements with hotels, coffee shops, and restaurant chains advertising WiFi.

Recent suits filed by Matthew McAndrews, a partner at Chicago-based law firm Niro, Haller & Niro, essentially claim if your business offers Wi-Fi to its customers, you owe Innovatio a one-time lump sum licensing payment of $2,300 to $5,000, according to an article Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols in ZDNet.

“Why are they doing this? To make money of course. No, they won’t see the millions and billions that big patent lawsuit can bring in, but those cases can take years. By suing small businesses for using a technology, they’re picking on companies without the first clue on how to deal with a patent lawsuit,” writes Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols in ZDNet.

More surprising than the fact that Innovatio IP Ventures has yet to face a class-action lawsuit is the idea that even small-business owners are not immune to high-cost, high-profile IP claims. Everybody must lawyer-up—a trend that further confirms the rising need for specialized patent attorneys.

With or without increased IP litigation, law firms should already be keeping clients apprised of business applications and impacts of the new patent law passed by Congress.

Firms (and both large and small corporate clients) across the nation can’t help but ask themselves, are we prepared?

So no matter what field of law your firm currently practices, a staff patent attorney should be in your future.

And, despite lawsuits suggesting the contrary, there has never been a better time for electrical engineering, computer science, and computer engineering students to attend law school.


For more information, attend C4CM’s course, “Writing Accurate and Defensible Job Descriptions that Comply with the ADA and FLSA.

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Commemorating Steve Jobs: Learning How To Live Fully, Work Passionately, And Hire Diversely From Apple

Even in this legal blog, Steve Jobs and his business strategies for Apple have made a profound impact (read here, here, and here). It is not surprising to find that after his death, the nation, the world, are both shocked and deeply saddened.

Thousands of commemorative articles have been written about his passing. On the White House blog, President Obama wrote,

“The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

A particular speech by Jobs—the 2005 Stanford commencement address—has been circulating the Internet. In it, Jobs references his own death and mortality. Especially poignant considering recent events.   However, his comments on life and living from the same speech deserve equal attention.

For example, one of the stories Jobs tells is about dropping out of college. After officially unenrolling from school, Jobs began auditing only those classes that interested him. One such class—on typography and calligraphy—seemed irrelevant at the time, albeit fascinating, to all of his professional goals. Still, he pursued it.

It turns out, quite the contrary was true. Jobs mentions how this understanding of typography greatly influenced the aesthetics of Apple products when founding the company. Today, one of Apple’s undeniable legacies is the prolific use and popularity of sans-serif fonts.

In the commencement speech, telling these stories, Jobs hoped to inspire graduating students to develop those secondary and tertiary passions.

“Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” said Jobs.

Other than a heart-felt reminder of the lessons Steve Jobs has offered young minds over the years, his speech has practical applications to legal minds today.

Creativity is directly linked to successful leadership and productivity. And, even though law may be your field of professional practice, it does not mean your individual knowledge of hard sciences, history, or sports will not come in handy one day.

In fact, during the hiring process, those qualified applicants who spent four years eating, drinking, and breathing law, and law only, may not be the best choices for your firm.

Here’s why. When you take on an important patent-dispute case, you’ll need the expertise of that first-year who graduated with a degree in Engineering before becoming a member of the bar.

When your next client is involved in an invasive tax audit, you’ll rely on the knowledge of the ex-Art History major when reviewing the auditors notes on family-heirloom paintings.

Finally, when there’s a second oil spill near Alaska or in the Gulf, it’ll be the paralegal who spent a summer as a Derrickhand that will become an indispensable source of information for the case.

Steve Jobs—whose company is (ironically) iconically known for its clean, white palette—was making an important point about people with colorful backgrounds. Professionally, diversified interests are valuable assets. Personally, multiple passions help a person know and love life fully.

As an attorney, strive to achieve both. As a law firm administrator or hiring partner, seek more colorful lawyers.

And, the greatest tribute that can be paid to Steve Jobs today is exactly the above: learning from his extensive knowledge and expertise.


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Social Media Recruitment On The Rise, But Should Your Firm Follow Suit?

In May, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) closed its investigation into whether or not an “Internet and social media background screening service used by employers in pre-employment background screening” complied with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The reporting agency in question, Social Intelligence, was deemed “a consumer reporting agency because it assembles or evaluates consumer report information that is furnished to third parties that use such information as a factor in establishing a consumer’s eligibility for employment.”

Taken out of legalese, this statement confirms that employers intent on issuing social media checks on employment candidates must comply with FCRA rules.

This means, when FCRA rules apply, employers will need to complete the following actions:

  1. Review the notice and authorization currently provided to applicants to ensure that these documents cover social media searches.
  2. If an applicant is selected for elimination from consideration based on the results of such a social media check—in whole or in part—be sure to receive a pre-adverse action notice that will supply the applicant with the same report received by the employer, or the FTC’s “A Summary Of Your Rights Under the FCRA.” Candidates have the right to dispute any alleged adverse information with the service provider that conducted the social check.
  3. Finally, after rejecting said applicant, release a final adverse action notice to the applicant, which should be written according to the language required by the FCRA.

However, the subtext of this news for employers is equally important as the rule-following.

According to a recent 2011 study conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), as reported by the Workplace Privacy Counsel, 56 percent of employers rely on social media for recruitment purposes. The number of employers relying on social media checks to hire new associates has increased by 22 percent since 2008.

According to the same study, an additional 20 percent of employers who do not currently use social media for recruiting intend to do so at some point in the future.

The sites most used by employers for recruitment purposes are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter (certainly makes you rethink that last tweet).


In any case, the SHRM survey doesn’t cover employers who conduct social media searches exclusively in-house, which are not subject to FCRA rules. The market for social media recruitment (and not simply the professional services who conduct them) is on the rise.

But how valuable is this information, really, for vetting possible candidates?

Philip Gordon, of Workplace Privacy Counsel, explains that the two major issues with social media recruitment are compliance and reliability. With compliance issues already briefly outlined, it’s time to question information objectivity and usefulness.

“Court systems, educational institutions, and employers, for example, have an inherent interest in maintaining accurate records for their own legitimate business purposes. By contrast, social media are replete with false, doctored, and biased information about others,” writes Gordon.

“Perhaps more importantly, social media posts apparently created by the author can be forged. I have recently counseled clients on two separate occasions where employees denied having posted on their Facebook wall negative information about the employer or co-workers, credibly claiming that others had stolen their log-in credentials or hacked into their account.”

So what’s left to believe these days?

If your firm decides it still wants to use social media for a recruitment tool, ask yourself what answers you’re hoping to unearth via the Internet. If they’re of a truly personal nature, is this information legal to obtain or consider during an application?

If your goal is professional, are there other, traditional ways to procure more reliable credentials—references, letters of referral, university transcripts, for example—that are less invasive?

Technology is a vital asset to a law firm. But, if the information you seek about potential candidates is more tangential in nature—simply a way of finding a few candidates to that stand out—one-on-one interactions and interviews are often underestimated tools in today’s world of digital profiles.

Just something to consider in between updating your blog.


There are a lot of benefits to online recruitment. Attend C4CM‘s course, “Facebook Recruiting Made Easy: How to Find Talent Today with Social Media” to learn more.

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