VOL. 113 | NO. 9 | Thursday, January 14, 1999
Law Focus (online)
By STACEY PETSCHAUER
Law firms are becoming increasingly comfortable
using the Internet for recruiting employees
By STACEY PETSCHAUER
The Daily News
The technological advances of recent years have revolutionized the way many industries do business, but the legal profession has been slow to jump on the cyber-bandwagon.
Now, high-technology is trying to gain a foothold in the field of legal recruiting but not without challenges.
"Law really typically lags behind corporate America in implementation of technology," said Neal Rechtman, president of Law Match, an online legal recruiting service based in New York.
"So, I really dont think you could speak to a lot of people who have encountered direct success with online recruiting at this point. Weve had successful hires, but relative to the number of hires that take place, its still a very small number.
"I expect that within the next year, though, its really going to start to zoom off the chart," he said.
Rechtman came into the online recruiting business after owning a traditional recruiting practice that placed people in technological positions in law firms.
As Internet technology became more sophisticated, Rechtman believed he had found a medium he could not ignore and eventually decided to use this new recruiting tool to his full advantage.
"The nature of employment and placement and recruiting is really just based on the distribution of information, resources and job listings, and the Internet is such a unique tool for distributing information.
"Its just so much more powerful than, for example, newspapers, that it is ultimately going to dominate the recruiting field. Its really just a matter of time because the efficiencies that are brought about by the Internet are so enormous," Rechtman said.
Law Match, located on the Web at www.lawmatch.com, contains a database of public and confidential resumes, as well as job listings.
Law students and practicing attorneys can post resumes at no cost, and costs vary for obtaining resume listings.
Law Match is a recruiting and placement tool for all law practice personnel, including attorneys, paralegals and legal secretaries, and is one of an increasing number of firms representing a growing legal trend.
A similar recruiting company is AttorneysAtWork, located at www.attorneysatwork.com.
The Atlanta-based company, which began about two and one-half years ago and works solely in the legal realm, offers free services for job seekers.
"Ours is a service where the employer pays, and the individuals come on for free," said president Patrick A. Arnold.
The company prides itself on confidentiality.
"The individual is able to maintain full confidentiality in the process, and our subscribing employers, when they do a search to find an individual to fill an opening, they dont get to see the resumes.
"Rather, they are able to send a message describing the position they have, and if the individual wishes to respond, he or she may," Arnold said.
One benefit to this system is that job seekers are not forced to publicly announce their intentions.
"The confidentiality feature is a tremendous asset. It appeals to both the active and the passive looker," Arnold said.
"An individual might have a good position and not necessarily be out pounding the pavement but would be open to the ideal situation if it came along.
"So, consequently, we get a slightly different mix of people than a lot of the services that appeal more to people who are actively out looking," he said.
An advantage of the service to employers is they are able to request specific criteria, and AttorneysAtWork seeks out the resumes matching those guidelines, he said.
The employers then send job descriptions to matching candidates, and an advantage for prospective employees is being able to choose whether or not to respond.
"If an employer advertises in the paper, they get back countless resumes, many of which do not meet the qualifications, whereas through what we offer, you do a very targeted search," Arnold said.
"If you are looking for a tax specialist thats had three to five years of experience with a firm of 100 or more people that speaks Mandarin Chinese, your message only goes to people who meet that criteria. You are not inundated with resumes to which you feel you must respond out of courtesy, but only those that have already been screened.
"So it acts much like a traditional headhunter there," he said.
AttorneysAtWork currently has about 23,000 resumes in its database and adds several hundred per week. Several hundred employers subscribe to the service, Arnold said.
He believes law firms are beginning to shake their fear of new technology.
"Its funny, when we started this, a lot of the firms that we would call on didnt even have Internet connections. In two short years, theres nobody who does not have one," he said.
But, not all legal professionals have total confidence in Internet technology.
"Im a little concerned about confidentiality issues on the Internet still, and so we really have not gone into (online placement) at all," said Charles deWitt, assistant dean of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
"But, I think there is no doubt that over the next five years or so its going to become increasingly important. There are so many organizations out there now that are getting into the field to provide that service for students and alumni alike," deWitt said.
The law school does have immediate plans to begin posting job openings on its Web site and offers students a listing of about 100 Internet sites that can help them in their job searches, he said.
"Where I dont feel comfortable is having them post their own resumes on a site to have somebody else plug into," deWitt said. "Lawyers are the most skeptical people in the world. Weve seen the worst motives of humankind, and all it takes is one thing to put you at risk.
"So the Internet is a tool for us and for our students and alumni to locate jobs, but at this point, not to be located by employers outside the traditional methods that we have available to them. I just cant quite yet make that leap," deWitt said.
On the employers side of the recruiting and placement spectrum, the Internet is gaining use as an informational tool but currently is not close to replacing traditional recruiting methods.
The Memphis law firm Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, for example, has a recruiting Web site that contains statistics, the firms census data, information about its summer associate program and descriptions of how the firm develops associates and how they are evaluated, reviewed and compensated.
The Web site, located at www.wyattfirm.com, provides information about the firm for law students or practicing attorneys who want to find out if the firm meets their career objectives, said associate Mark Vorder-Bruegge Jr.
"I think its a very efficient way to do that," Vorder-Bruegge said. "The flip side of it, using the Internet to try to get jobs or place yourself or place customers, I dont know how efficient that is. I think the jurys still out on whether that will catch on."
Resumes or applications submitted initially through the Internet that appear to be mass mailings are not given serious consideration by the firm, although it uses e-mail to communicate with prospective employees once they are part of the applicant pool, he said.
Vorder-Bruegge said he does not believe Internet hiring will ever fully take the place of face-to-face assessment.
Nathan A. Bicks with Burch, Porter & Johnson said his firm uses the Internet primarily for communications purposes in hiring, such as correspondence with applicants, placement officers and law schools.
He said there is no way to tell now how advancements in technology will change hiring practices in the future, but he believes a lot more of the coordination involved in the hiring process, such as the scheduling of recruiting visits, soon will be done entirely through electronic means.
Rechtman said in this day and age, if firms and job seekers do not take advantage of the Internet in some capacity, they are falling short of their potential for success.
"From the employers or recruiters point of view, what you are looking for now in the day of the Internet is still what you were looking for in the days before the Internet, and that is you want the best possible candidate for your job. Thats the ultimate goal.
"So, to the extent that you want the best person, you would be a fool not to cover the Internet marketplace in some fashion because you are missing a big swatch of very good candidates," he said.
Even if only 20 percent of job seekers are listed on the Internet, employers could be missing their best candidates by not using the Web, Rechtman said.
Conversely, if a job seekers main objective is to arrange as many interviews as possible, not using the Internet as a tool will cause that person to miss out on a range of opportunities, he said.
"Its really just a matter of being thorough about your job, whatever your job is," he said. "If you dont use the Internet, you are missing something."