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February 2000

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Recruiting Tools

The Next, Best Thing in Legal Headhunting: Online Shopping for a Lawyer?

A strong Web site, with current information, can entice both clients and prospective employees.

By Martha Fay Africa

BACK IN THE old days, lawyers actually looked for jobs because there were fewer jobs than lawyers. Employers imagined that the really good lawyers weren't looking so they hired headhunters to pry them loose from wherever they were. Less discriminating employers who wanted lawyers to know they needed to hire laterals placed print ads.

While ads often yielded marginal results in terms of quality, they at least alerted one's competitors that business was good enough to hire. And sometimes the ads produced a few good resumes. Hiring was mostly entry level anyway, except for that big time partner with a book of business.

Then there was the recession of the early '90s. Overnight, the world of legal hiring changed dramatically and the careers of junior lawyers and those in the law school pipeline took massive hits.

When the economy recovered, the world was a different place. Bill Clinton kept saying, "It's the economy, stupid," as if we didn't know. But he also kept talking about this mysterious information superhighway and most of us had no idea what he was talking about.

It didn't take long for us to figure out that he was talking about distribution channels! The information superhighway, a.k.a., the Web, is one big distribution channel and it has the power to distribute lawyers, or any other good or service, from one place of employment to another! Or does it?

If it doesn't now, it will. Blink. If your firm doesn't have a Web site, it is missing out on an important way to attract both potential employees as well as prospective clients. The Internet as a distribution channel now primarily purveys information but, increasingly, it is being used to facilitate transactions of all kinds. Who knows, maybe someday those transactions will involve on-line shopping for lawyers?

Rich Tool

The Web is a rich tool, providing anonymity to those who value it while they troll for job related info, as well as information about who wants to hire whom. So law firms that want to hire can use their Web sites to initiate the hiring process

The most effective of these Web sites are truly interesting, provocative, and easy to use. A Web-savvy lawyer might logically conclude that a firm with a cool Website might be a truly cool place to work.

A lawyer who is curious about whether you are hiring can look at the "Recruiting" section of your Web site in the middle of the night while at the printer and shoot you an e-mail, expressing interest. The next day you write back with the net equivalent of, "Come hither!"

This, in fact, happens lots. For much less than that print ad will cost you, the Web can pre-sell your firm and whet a candidate's appetite with information about your firm.

Here is what the candidates tell us they are impressed by: Web sites that are fast loading; uncluttered; logical; easily navigated; interactive; include voice or audio clips; are linked to relevant sites (such as to the local Chamber of Commerce with information about housing costs in your community); hyperlinked to show where the user is in the Web site; have an easy/logical URL; print that can be read without bi-focals; the organization's name on each page; timely information; and provide reasons for the viewer to return to the site after their initial contacts.

Tall order? Yes, but increasingly, Web page designers are able to deliver sites with these characteristics.

Case in Point

To illustrate these points, consider some of the user information we have learned from our Major, Hagen & Africa site (

In October of '99, we had almost 200,000 hits. We were able to tell that 83.6 percent of the visitors were from the United States; that Tuesday was the most active day of the week for our site; that the most active day ever (to that point) was Oct. 25, '99; and that the most active hour of the day was between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. PST.

We regard our Web site as a primary advertising tool--in that it tells clients and candidates what kinds of jobs we are trying to fill at any given time, and also enables each candidate with whom we work to actively partner with us in our search on their behalf.

This is a key concept, because it levels the "power equation" between the headhunter and the candidate, but providing the same information and opportunities to all candidates who contact us.

In other words, if you are an candidate inquiring about "exploring options," I can refer you to our Web site as a shopping resource. If you want to work at a PPI (pre-public Internet company), you can look at the Web site to find out how many of those we are searching for this week. If you want to work in London in the content arena, look at the Web site to see what kind of work we are currently handling in London. The information is there and you don't have to rely on my phone call to you in order to know about it. If our firm is working on something, you can find out about it no matter what time zone or location you happen to be in at the moment.

We have found the Web to be very effective, especially for the companies that tend to get overlooked these days by candidates eager to cash in on option plays.

Will you be able to shop for lawyers on the Web soon? You can now through and MonsterBoard.

Will a Web site replace human judgement in sorting through more-or-less equally qualified candidates? Probably not, and it's good to know we can't be replaced by a machine!

But a good Web site can help everybody--candidates, firms and headhunters alike--get critical information quickly and easily, which ultimately helps both the employer, headhunter, and the would-be employee find the perfect match!

Attorney search consultant Martha Fay Africa is based in the San Francisco office of Major, Hagen & Africa.

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