Thursday, October 2, 2008

Diversity

Some commenters wondered how diversity factors into our thinking and noted there seem to be "looser" standards for women and diverse candidates. I can only speak for this HP, but I will tell you my standards are not "looser" when we are speaking with diverse candidates.  Rather, all things relatively (or nearly) equal, furthering the firm's diversity goals may come into play if we are considering Student A vs. B. However, a diversity factor won't - in my book - get you a call back if you weren't lauded by the screening interviewer.  You might get a screening interview if your grades are outside the cutoff slightly. But, if you are far away from the cutoff, being diverse isn't helping at least at my shop.  We have too many other candidates - diverse and non-diverse - who have great resumes.  

On the subject of women, just being a woman doesn't really buy any easier route these days. We see plenty of women in our screens and call backs.  It is more so the diversity factor that might be considered, assuming all else is equal.  I assure you that there are no "looser" standards for women.  If you see them getting call backs and offers, it is because they are highly qualified and -- as if often the case -- they tend to shine more in the callbacks personality-wise.  Many women have an easier time connecting with people they are just meeting than men.  Again, these are my observations. When I was on campus a couple of months back, the women were terrific.  The men, more mixed. 

I know I promised to discuss women's issues in a later post, and I will do so.  The law firm world is a difficult place for working women - especially working moms. It has gotten better over the years. If you are considering a family life down the road, you do need to think about selecting firms/companies/other organizations that appear to promote women -including those with families (ie. not just those who give up lives to devote selves to firm).  You do not want to be in a place where the lawyer moms are ghettoed to senior associate or of counsel forever.  Lack of power = lack of respect.  And, try to beware of that particularly evil brand of woman lawyer -- women who do not support other women.  My lawyer/mom friend says "there is a special place in hell for women who denigrate other women (without any basis for doing so). " 

Just HP's two cents for the day. 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

>Many women have an easier time >connecting with people they are >just meeting than men. Again, >these are my observations. When I >was on campus a couple of months >back, the women were terrific. >The men, more mixed.
Translation: most interviewers are men, they are attracted to the women so its easier to talk to them.

Anonymous said...

previous comment retracted as unfair to you, but it is true that plenty of people on above the law say they are interviewers and like when women look attractive.

Involved in Hiring said...

By looser standards, I did mean re: screening interview.

My argument is that if personality can go a long way for a "diversity" student, why doesn't a kid (non-diverse) with the excellent personality deserve that treatment if he's out of the grade cutoff? If a firm harps on being diverse, why not actually try an diversify the field by pulling talent without taking a hard-line approach to 1L grades. An argument could be made that pooling from a specific grade sampling creates a non-diverse culture - regardless. I believe my firm errs by limiting diversity to gender, sexual preference and ethnicity.

I suspect the counter to this is two-fold. First - firms need to justify high billing rates to their clients (and claiming top % at top LS could go a long way in doing that). Second - firms need a reliable indicator regarding their 160K investment.

My final point: if attrition is so high, and firms actually would like to retain their investment (it can be argued they do not), why not change their system to find associates that actually meet the firm's needs? For example - top 1% kid wants to pay off debt, gain experience and lateral into small firm shortly after v. top 50% kid who wants to stick it out in a big firm, can endure long hours and stressful situations. Wouldn't the "risk" of taking the second kid be muted by the built-in risk of loosing the first kid? I believe firms often hire associates who have the intention of leaving before partnership. It is harder to sway this person to stay considering the industry's realities if the associate has an agenda.

It's been my experience that many students can do the work we let our associates take on. In the end, personality determines whether the associate sticks around or leaves. The risk that as you reach further down class rank it becomes more likely that the student's work product will diminish may not be as correlative as people believe. Further, the possible benefit of keeping an additional associate per class (or two) after three years could yield a better return for the firm. It certainly would help morale.

I've been involved in the hiring process only recently (2004). By no means do I have a significant sway in my firms policies. I find the fact that it's difficult to speak out against the system as a problem in itself.

Anonymous said...

Haha amen to what your Mom says - I'll never understand why some of us girls like to keep each other down.

e. said...

HP, if your firm offers a candidate a summer-associate position, do you differentiate (in treatment of the offerees) between the people you REALLY want and the people you sort-of want?

Some firms keep sending e-mails, making phone calls, etc., while others follow their offer with complete silence. I wonder whether that is a reflection on the different firms' culture, it's position in the hiring market, or whether it is an indication of their opinion of the particular candidate. (Or perhaps just a random fact, caused by the fact that not every interviewer is equally active in following up.)

e. said...

Yowch, I meant to write "THEIR position in the hiring market", not "its", and certainly not "it's".

Anonymous said...

Any biglaw HP claiming that diversity plays no (or a nominal) role in hiring decisions is either full of it or not an HP. one need only look at the ridiculous number of diversity career fairs, the inordinate degree of recruiters at Howard UniversiTTTy, etc. to see how big of a role "diversity" really plays. AA is a idea that just won't die.

f-3 said...

I think "Involved in Hiring" has a great point. In the rush for rankings and numbers, we tend to lose perspective, and fail to see the long term investment strategies.