As we unpack how law firms can benefit from differentiating themselves among recruits and taking steps to ensure more authentic connections with candidates, it’s worth looking at examples of how this can actually work.
When I was an associate at Jones Day, I launched my blog Break Into BigLaw with the sole purpose of providing honest, personal information to aspiring lawyers. I wanted to reverse engineer my experience of breaking into the field despite coming from an unranked law school, and offer career strategies that I knew were successful.
As a result of this work, I was invited to speak and teach for law student and college groups nationwide. This is how in 2016 I found myself speaking at the pre-law event at San Diego State University (SDSU) where I met Alyssa Moscrop, a senior at the time, and an aspiring lawyer.
‘Confidence, Your Love for Your Career’
When I met her, Alyssa was so focused on the law school application process that she was not even thinking about what day two of law school would be like, much less her longer-term career goals.
“When I saw your confidence, your love for your career, and your pride in Jones Day, I was instantly hooked,” Alyssa said.
This was when she and I started to connect. As we talked more and more, our conversations provided Alyssa with greater insight into what Big Law has to offer and how working in such an environment could become her personal pathway to success and fulfillment. Eventually our conversations became the lens through which Alyssa would view her law school career and earning a Big Law position became her primary focus.
Help Along the Way
Following that pre-law event, I followed up with Alyssa and made sure to assist where I could with every step of her law career process, including law school applications and decisions, cover letters, connecting her with other professionals, research, and interviewing. Later that year, Alyssa decided to attend the University of Southern California Gould School of Law (USC).
In law school, Alyssa did her fair share of the work. She attended every holiday party and happy hour she could, and upon meeting someone she liked, she sent them an email asking more specific questions. That included multiple law firm networking events in the spring of her 1L year. She also frequented panels at her law school, and participated in a mentorship program open to students in the L.A. area.
“Once I had narrowed my options, I was really looking at one thing: the people,” Alyssa tells me. In other words, she wanted to feel a connection with the firm and individuals she’d be working with.
With several law firms to choose from, Alyssa ultimately chose to join Jones Day as a summer associate and is now expected to return to the firm as a first-year attorney.
Now here is the kicker. None of this would have been possible without the active support of Jones Day. Jones Day made our connection possible to begin with. My speaking engagement at SDSU wasn’t just supported by the firm, it was encouraged. And the firm’s enthusiasm and support made me even more excited about that speaking engagement, which allowed me to connect on a more personal level with those present. This matters. “That’s what made our meeting so pivotal to my own future,” Alyssa says now. “Forever in the immediate background lingered the possibility of Jones Day.”
Alyssa believes that if firms are looking to recruit early and strong, passive connections won’t do the trick. “Making that connection so early gave me comfort,” says Alyssa. And when the time came to choose Jones Day, it was easy for her, “because I was already familiar with the firm through you.” She explains: “If law firms connect with these undergraduate pre-law groups, send their best advocates, and show an interest in pre-law students, even clueless ones like me, one day they will be the firm in the back of another student’s mind.”
‘Comfortable’ With Her Decision
What turned Alyssa away from other law firms was that she could not quite get that same feeling of deep connection with the lawyers from those firms, and she knew that this would be essential to her long-term happiness. According to Alyssa, the key was and is her relationship with me.
“My experiences with Jones Day up to that point reassured me I would be happy working there and have a very fulfilling career,” she says. “I was comfortable with my decision because Jones Day was kind enough to open up to me, and because I sought out every opportunity to take advantage of it.”
So this is the story of how I met Alyssa and built a lasting relationship. It is an example of what can happen when firms focus on fostering connections with legal talent early in the college pipeline. One of the most formative moments of Alyssa’s career happened before she even made it to law school.
We think of mentorship as a one-off opportunity. But it should be so much more than that. By refocusing mentoring and connection as a long term, supported and thought out process between the firm, its attorneys, and its recruits, firms can create opportunities to revitalize the pipeline between law school and law career, develop the next generation of lawyers, and most importantly, attract the best talent that is the best fit for the firm.
Rachel Gezerseh is the author of The Law Career Playbook, and a partner at boutique law firm Liang Ly LLP, where she focuses on complex commercial litigation in federal and state courts. Previously, she spent a decade as a business litigator for Jones Day in Los Angeles. She is the creator of the Break Into BigLaw blog and recently joined the faculty at the University of Southern California as an adjunct law professor.