Biglaw, Interview Stories, Job Searches, john quinn, Law Schools, National Association for Law Placement (NALP), Partner Issues, Partner Profits, Summer Associates

Quinn Emanuel Takes a New Approach to On-Campus Recruiting

Obtaining a summer associate position at a major law firm remains difficult. That’s the upshot of a recent report (PDF) issued by our friends at NALP. You can read summaries of the report at the NALP website and at the ABA Journal. This quip, by NALP executive director Jim Leipold, pretty much says it all: “This is not a hot recruiting market.”

Given that employers are still in the driver’s seat, at least when it comes to entry-level recruiting — recruiting of lateral lawyers, whether associates or partners, is a different kettle of fish — you’d think that law firms would use this opportunity to experiment a bit with fall recruiting. There are some interesting alternatives out there to the standard model of 20- to 30-minute screening interviews, typically held in the summer before or early fall of the 2L year, followed by callback interviews at the firms. E.g., JD Match (disclosure: a past ATL advertiser).

But law firms, as we know, are a conservative group. They tend to stick with existing models, even if those models are imperfect.

Well, most law firms. Nobody ever accused Quinn Emanuel of not daring to be different….

Some lawyers at stodgier firms chuckle at Quinn Emanuel’s unorthodox ways. But John Quinn and his partners at the litigation powerhouse are laughing all the way to the bank. In 2011, QE’s profits per partner broke the $4 million mark, and revenue per lawyer hit $1.4 million. You can’t argue with success.

And some of that success came from discarding traditional models in favor of more innovative approaches. As John Quinn told Am Law Daily, “We could not have achieved financial results like these simply billing by the hour…. A significant amount of our revenue came from contingent fee and other alternative fee arrangements, both on the plaintiffs and defense side.”

Will Quinn Emanuel’s new approach to recruiting find similar success? Here’s what QE plans to do in the next recruiting cycle, as John Quinn explained to me in an email (note his trademark lowercase letters):

quinn emanuel prides itself on pushing the envelope, and we’ve decided to do just that on recruiting, moving from the on campus interviewing madhouse – which involves a lot of time wasted for the students and for us – to a new plan. consistent with all the national guidelines for placement, of course, and we think more fun and more likely to produce good matches for the students and us.

Key word: FUN. In addition to their courtroom prowess, Quinn Emanuel lawyers are known for their fun-loving ways. How many Biglaw shops take their lawyers on an annual Skiing and Snowboarding Extravaganza? Or take their summer associates to exotic destinations like Switzerland?

So, here’s the plan, per JBQ:

instead of all the twenty minute interviews, many of them with students who aren’t a match for us or us for them, we’re going to come to the law schools in the spring, invite all the first year students and have a fun, freewheeling “get to know you” party with enough of our lawyers present so students can meet (and even talk for more than twenty minutes) to a real cross-section from all the offices (and not have to wear suits). then we’ll follow up with direct submission of resumes. we think it will give more students a chance to get to know us over a longer period of time, and even collect offers in their back pockets before they enter the OCI pressure cooker. of course we’ll extend the time those offers stay open so they can compare us to the other firms they meet at OCI; we’re confident that we’ll compare very well. we’re going to do a trial run this year at six schools, with parties on the following days, and look forward to meeting every first year who might be interested in any of our offices.

Yale: March 27 at 6:30 pm
Harvard: March 28 at 6:30 pm
Chicago & Northwestern: April 5 at 6:30 pm
Berkeley: April 10 at 6:30 pm
Stanford: April 11 at 6:30 pm

If you’re a 1L at one of the six schools mentioned above, CHECK YOU CALENDAR [FN1]. Quinn knows how to throw a party; you’ll definitely want to attend. (Heck, even transactional types might want to go, just for the food and drink.)

I did clarify with John Quinn that the plan outlined above does not replace the standard callback interviews held at the Quinn Emanuel offices. Instead, it’s just a more efficient way for the firm to figure out which law students it would like to keep talking to. And, of course, these get-togethers offer a way for law students to figure out if they’d fit well with the Quinn firm culture.

(Speaking for myself, I think QE lawyers are incredibly fun to hang out with; they’re a tremendously smart, fun, and dynamic group. But I recognize that the Quinn way isn’t for everyone, especially those who prefer fairly formal work environments and relationships. Not everyone is comfortable wearing jeans, shorts, or flip-flops to the office.)

I can see several advantages to this approach….

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