Our recruiting and retention practices help us hire and retain a diverse group of lawyers. To us, law student recruits are a lot more than their resumes.
Several years ago, we added two new parts to our interview process. The first is an interview with a diverse panel of Schiff Hardin lawyers. Schiff Hardin lawyers ask structured, pre-planned behavioral questions to gather extensive information about students’ professional, academic, extracurricular, and other individual life experiences. The format is designed to eliminate bias, and panel members have been professionally trained to interview effectively. The atmosphere is welcoming and lets students highlight their individual backgrounds, experiences, and talents.
The second new part is a short writing exercise. We hand candidates a case and ask them to answer a question posed by someone who is affected by it. This part of our interview helps us see who is ready and eager to interact with real clients early in their career. We seek organized thoughts, clear writing, and an appropriate tone. We review the writing exercises without knowing any information about the candidate, which guarantees that our process is gender- and diversity-neutral.
We are finding many diverse law students who are excited about the Firm – and we are actively recruiting them.
Over the past few years, we have redoubled our efforts to increase the pool of diverse candidates that we interview. We interview at the Cook County Minority Job Fair, Southeastern Minority Job Fair, Bay Area Diversity Job Fair, Lavender Law, and on campus at law schools nationwide, including Howard University School of Law, a historically black law school in Washington, D.C.
We also recently took on another project with Howard University School of Law. In the fall of 2016, Schiff’s legal writing coach, Julie Schrager, began offering writing workshops to Howard law students. She hosted her second workshop in February 2017. We view these workshops as a valuable investment to ensure that talented, diverse future lawyers are fully equipped to enter the profession.
Several of our lawyers also participate in formal and informal mentoring programs, including the University of Chicago’s Women’s Mentoring Program, Northwestern University’s OUTlaw organization, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, and the LINK Unlimited Scholars program.
Our recent recruiting results bear out our efforts. Our 2016 summer program was 60% women and 20% diverse. And the 2015 summer associate class had the highest percentage of women summer associates in firm history – 75%.
Further, our inclusive and supportive environment helps us retain talent. Nearly ten years ago, Schiff Hardin appointed its first Professional Development Partner, Lisa Brown, to work with all of our associates to ensure that they receive the professional opportunities and training they need to navigate the law firm environment and manage their work. The Firm also hired a legal writing coach, Julie Schrager, to work closely with our summer associates and associates to improve their writing skills. Julie conducts small- and large-group workshops and works one-on-one with individual lawyers. Through Julie’s work, we provide every lawyer the opportunity to improve in this critically important area.
We plan on the success of every associate and lateral we hire. But at the same time we know that attorneys have different needs and goals at different stages of their careers and that no two career paths are the same. For these reasons, we mentor all attorneys and monitor our progress toward creating long, successful, and rewarding careers for each of them.
We also have a compensation and advancement structure that is adapted to associates’ individual needs. There are three tiers of associates. Each practice group has specifically identified and communicated the competencies that are required for advancement. And to further ensure that our associates gain the experiences and skills they need to advance, we hold annual “practice mastery” conferences for each firm associate.
Our hiring approach has one additional unique feature: we allow new associates to spend up to a year working in their choice of practice areas before selecting a primary area. Further, once an associate has chosen a primary practice area, he or she may still work in others. These policies help us recruit, retain, and advance minority and women attorneys.