Lawyer recruiting is in the news. Given the cost and the stakes, BigLaw should be doing more with technology to recruit. 

Annual Survey Shows the New Reality of Associate Life (American Lawyer, 9/07) reports on the challenge large law firms face recruiting new talent:

“First, in the short run, the war for talent will become more ferocious. Second, the cost of talent will only increase. And third, the need for firms to differentiate themselves will become apparent even to the hidebound.”

And how well does BigLaw do differentiating itself? Not so well. A related article, Is This Any Way to Recruit Associates? reports that

“Students also have problems vetting firms. They aren’t helped much by firm marketing materials, which often say the same thing and make firms indistinguishable from each other. ‘They all tell you they have great clients, and they work hard but [have] a very collegial atmosphere,’ says the Stanford student. ‘It’s the same discourse over and over again.’ Because so many firms look alike to students, they are now making several visits to firms after they get offers — simply to find a reason to pick one firm over another.”

This article also reports that firms “spend as much as $250,000 to recruit a single summer associate.” Given that huge cost, one might think that firms would take special pains to differentiate themselves or to manage the recruitment process. But there’s scant evidence of that.

Well-known legal journalist Bob Ambrogi reviews law firm recruiting web sites in Web Watch: Online Recruiting (Law Tech News, Aug 2007). He concludes that “[w]hile a handful of firms use the medium to full advantage, most take a remarkably humdrum approach, and some make surprisingly clumsy missteps.”

In my March blog post, A New Weapon in the Talent Arms Race (3/6/07), I noted that BigLaw is not using blogs to recruit new lawyers. It still strikes me that a blog is an easy and inexpensive way to communicate to recruits the texture of life and work at a firm. I’m not aware of any firms doing this.

Meanwhile some firms are at least trying to differentiate. The Web is, like, so cool for law firm hiring in the Boston Business Journal (8/3/07) reports on Choate Hall’s use of video in recruiting. I personally found the video underwhelming (I’m not sure why a summer associate talking about her interest in horror films helps differentiate the firm). Click here for Choate Hall video

Somewhat lost in the American Lawyer articles is that a big factor contributing to recruiting expense is the complexity of managing so many interviews and the workflow of communicating with 10s or 100s of recruits. On that front, one firm, Mallesons in Australia, has innovated in the recruitment process, winning an InnovAction award for its work, as I reported in Innovative Uses of Legal Technology (7/9/07):

Mallesons Stephen Jacques’ TalentNet “a web based solution for recruitment management… has vastly improved the firm’s recruitment outcome while reducing costs… [it] manages all internal and external processes in the recruitment lifecycle, from the requisition through to the final appointment. TalentNet has removed most of the administrative overhead in the recruitment process.”

Mallesons reports that TalentNet “has cut recruitment lead times by more than fifty per cent” and given the firm a competitive edge in recruiting top talent.

Bottom line: Strategic-thinking CIOs should be talking to recruiting partners and directors and firm management about reducing costs and improving results. With a talent war underway, how can BigLaw afford not to be properly armed?