So, how do law firms hire attorneys? Well, according to University of Colorado Law School Dean Philip Weiser, law firms seek to hire attorneys based on pedigree: those who went to the best law schools and got the highest grades. In his July 15, 2015 article posted on abajournal.com titled “How law firms are innovating when it comes to hiring,” he makes the case that this method of hiring often leads to poor results.
Dean Weiser advocates that law firms should change their hiring practices from centering on pedigree. Among other anecdotes, he cites to Google’s findings that candidates’ GPAs are “worthless as a criteria for hiring.” Rather, he suggests that a more informed hiring practice could identify the best candidates. For example, firms could conduct behavioral interviews centering around group projects and writing assignments, or they could use behavioral panel interviews that culminate with an onsite writing assignment “summarizing legal information for a non-lawyer.”
Psychologist Ron Friedman believes that “interviews are a disastrous tool for gauging potential . . . because over 80% of people lie during interviews.” According to an April 22, 2015 Business Insider article titled, “Psychologist says interviews are a terrible way to hire – here’s what you should do instead,” interviewers’ own biases can affect the process.
‘We automatically jump to all kinds of erroneous assumptions about a candidate from their appearance,’ [Dr. Friedman] says. ‘Studies show we view good looking people as more competent. We perceive tall candidates as having greater leadership potential. And we assume deep-voiced candidates are more trustworthy.’
None of these evaluations are necessarily accurate, of course. ‘But here’s the thing,’ Friedman says. ‘They affect the questions we ask during interviewers. And the way a question is phrased can make all the difference.’
Dr. Friedman, author of The Best Place To Work, suggests that job auditions are better indicators of a candidate’s potential than job interviews.
Instead of asking a job candidate questions for an hour, design a job-relevant assignment that reflects the type of work the applicant will actually do, should they be hired.
All of this is interesting, but why should you care? If you’re a law firm partner in charge of hiring, you should seriously consider the perspective presented by these and other professionals to enhance your hiring practices and ultimately your talent pool.
If you’re a legal consumer, dispel yourself of the notion that pedigree is necessarily an indicator of a better attorney. While a Harvard Law graduate may well be an excellent attorney, an attorney who graduated from a law school you have not heard of may also be an excellent attorney. A high-ranking law school diploma is no guaranty.