Bad Ideas, Biglaw, Job Searches, Media and Journalism, New York Times, Videos

Law Firm Videos: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Quinn Emanuel Ivy Ivey recruiting video Above the Law blog.GIFThis morning’s New York Times has a painfully earnest article about law firm recruiting videos. It’s not a particularly juicy piece; they should have called us for comment (’cause we “give good quote”).
But it’s still neat to see Biglaw getting a shout-out in the NYT. Here’s the lede:

Law firms have discovered YouTube.

Well, actually, they have discovered that the law students they are trying to recruit as summer associates watch YouTube, the popular video Web site.

Several firms are trying to parlay that discovery into a hiring tool, creating recruiting videos and Web sites with the look and feel of YouTube. The firms hope to persuade students that their lawyers, and by extension the firms, are young-thinking and hip.

Okay, that didn’t say anything that ATL readers don’t already know. We weren’t surprised to see the byline of crack reporter Karen Donovan, author of that publicist-generated puff piece Pulitzer-worthy profile of Gallion & Spielvogel.
But the article gets a little better as it goes along. More after the jump.

Donovan did reach out to the Vault crew:

“The videos are still kind of in the early days,” said Brian Dalton, the senior law editor at Vault Reports, which ranks law firms. “A lot of them come off seeming like hostage videos.”

Hmm… This reminds us a lot of what we wrote about the mp3s on the Debevoise & Plimpton website, in our New York Observer column: “query whether these testimonials sound a little like tape recordings from hostages to their families.”
Correction: Our apologies to Brian Dalton, who attributed the quote to our column. The fault was Karen Donovan’s, who didn’t take down the attribution. Brian explains over at Vault’s new blog, Void for Vagueness.
Anyway, enough about us, back to the article:

Choate Hall & Stewart, a Boston firm with about 200 lawyers and more than 100 years of history, has developed a series inspired by the “Mac vs. PC” advertisements from Apple. Rather than associates, actors are used in the Choate ads….

The Choate videos were created by Greenfield Belser, a Washington marketing firm that specializes in law firms. Its president, Burkey Belser, decided to parody the Apple ads in part because of a limited budget. The firm charged Choate $75,000 for the 4 ads and 20 testimonials from 9 summer associates and other lawyers.

Wow, that’s a lot of cheddar. Probably even more than Nixon Peabody paid for its theme song.
The most interesting part of the article was the discussion of the Quinn Emanuel video (which has been pulled from their website, as we noted here):

The video told the story of Ivey, a young brunette, who is first seen as she develops photos in her darkroom and plays Ultimate Frisbee. Ivey (really an actress) says she has a B.A. from Yale and a J.D. from Stanford, and is seen wearing a form-fitting jersey shirt, blue jeans and chunky necklaces as she consults with the partners.

But when the Web site went live last week, the video did not appear.

“Some of the associates, some of the partners, thought it was too contrived; maybe corny was probably a better word,” said A. William Urquhart, the firm’s hiring partner.

That’s their story, and they’re sticking to it. But we prefer the explanation that we heard:

word on the street is some female partners were outraged. the video showed ‘Ivy’ chatting it up with John Quinn, Bill Urquhart and Eric Emanuel (all name partners), with Urquhart even carrying a box for her. then it showed her working out and toweling off. i think some of the women found it too erotic.

Here’s how the article ends:

Norm Rubenstein of the Zeughauser Group and former marketing officer at three law firms, said the videos were interesting because they aim at “a generation that takes the Web for granted, that values Internet-based social networking.”

“That’s what makes the video ‘conversations’ on the Sullivan site or the mock commercials on Choate’s site so compelling,” Mr. Rubenstein said. “Compared to the traditional iteration of marquee clients, major deals and disputes, these express true personality in ways that are memorable.”

Oh Lord. Cue eye roll. How do these videos convey anything other than the generic qualities that law firms (often falsely) claim to possess, like “collegiality,” “a laid-back atmosphere,” or “responsibility for junior associates” (hahaha)?
But look, we’re being petty. We’ll stop complaining about Karen Donovan’s inability to analyze law firm videos with the same healthy skepticism and critical eye that a fellow Timeswoman, Judy Miller, trained on Bush Administration claims about WMD.
It’s still a helluva lot better than Donovan’s Gallion & Spielvogel article. And for that we are grateful.
Law Firms Go a Bit Hollywood to Recruit the YouTube Generation [New York Times]
All the quotes that’s fit to steal [Vault]

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