published May 26, 2008

By Jennifer C. LaRusso

Attract Smart, Young Associate Attorneys to Jobs at Your Law Firm Using a Microsite

The fall recruiting process is a daunting time for law students and law firms alike. In addition to rigorous interview schedules, firms face fierce competition to gain acceptances of top students. Much attention is paid to students after offers have been extended to them, but the time to distinguish oneself is before the on-campus interview rush.

For many firms a website is the most direct way to make a lasting first impression. Even in economically challenging times, it remains vitally important that a firm continue looking towards the future, and the best way to do this is through innovative recruiting strategies. Your website is the perfect medium to give students insight into your firm's true personality.

At Cadwalader we chose to distinguish ourselves through a microsite designed specifically for students called "The Real Deal." A microsite is a smaller website that acts as a supplement to a primary website — the primary website being the firm's main portal. Students have become extremely technologically savvy and look for the same in a potential employer. In a time when students are accustomed to tools such as Facebook and MySpace, firms must make a conscious effort to stay current.

Of course, it is tempting to play it safe by sticking to the usual website template, offering basic information on who you are and what you can offer a student. A better tactic is to take a proactive approach towards recruiting and let students know exactly what they can expect from their employer. The "Real Deal" microsite provides a chance for us to showcase our individuality and hopefully give students a chance to determine whether we are a good fit for them.

The words that greet you as you enter the microsite are "Make no mistake about it, a career at Cadwalader isn't for the faint of heart." While this may sound severe, we proceed to explain that although the job comes with commitment, the professional rewards will be great.

Acknowledging that students will be expected to work hard and will be staffed on demanding projects may sound counterproductive to a goal of gaining acceptances, but it actually works to the firm's advantage in getting across a clear message of who we are. After all, we are recruiting for the long term and want to give our summer associates the same experience that they can expect when they return the following fall as full-time associates.

Students are still able to access the key information they are looking for, such as salary, training program, department overview, and summer associate event details, but each section is structured under the umbrella idea of the "Real Deal" — "Real Work," "Real Choices," "Real Time," and "Real Summer." Because we stick to a common, and hopefully engaging, theme, students can distinguish us from the many other firms they interview with. There has been much "Real Deal" humor thrown at us when we finally meet students on campus, so we know the students are accessing the site!

Of course, as with any idea that ventures from the norm, we have received mixed reviews from students about our microsite. In an attempt to constantly stay in tune with students' thoughts and opinions, each year we ask both those who have accepted offers from us and those who have declined offers from us to provide us with their thoughts on the "Real Deal" microsite.

Many students love our truthful approach and praise the easy-to-navigate and insightful website, while others find our message a bit overwhelming. Students know they are going to work hard and get great experience but would rather hear about leisurely lunches and Broadway shows instead of thinking about their long-term careers.

However, as an institution, we shouldn't be afraid of negative feedback, as it prevents us from settling into a comfort zone and becoming stagnant in our growth. Also, feedback has told us that students want us to be truthful about what their real-life work will be like. We know that they do understand and welcome the challenges that lie ahead.

Another benefit to sending out this message through the microsite is that it helps to attract the types of students who will become the lawyers we want at our firm. If you shy away from challenges and the idea of an intense summer intimidates you, then perhaps we are not the right fit. By stating who you are as a firm and what your personality is, your website can be the ideal starting point for building a successful group of future attorneys.

About the Author

Jennifer C. LaRusso is an associate development and recruitment coordinator in the New York office of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, LLP . She is responsible for fall recruiting and the firm's summer program.

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