Law firm recruiters say student hiring was more competitive than ever during the summer of 2022, as timelines were tight and students already had offers in hand during OCI. An earlier, competitive recruiting landscape means engaging law students in fall, winter and spring is vital – whether to increase brand awareness, identify top talent pre-OCI, or both. So, with law student engagement in fall through spring more critical than ever, what should your firm’s outreach plan look like?
Flo Recruit aims to inform your strategy with market research from our recent survey. You can also view a recording of our recent webinar on the topic here.
The Flo Recruit Law Student Engagement Strategy surveyed 47 Legal Law Firm Recruiters to understand their attitudes towards precruiting and their firm's recruiting actions after the 2022 On-Campus Interview (OCI) season.
Survey respondents were distributed across the US, with no more than 33% coming from any region. In total, they represent a range of law firm sizes, with 45% of respondents from firms with more than 700 Attorneys, 26% from law firms with 350 - 700 attorneys, and 28% from law firms with fewer than 350 attorneys.
In our findings, size was a determining factor in recruitment strategies, and we’ll use the firm's size in our cross-referencing to help highlight the differences in these organizations.
Finally, a good portion of survey respondents (45%) reported that their current position is "Manager," with another 8% saying "Sr. Manager." Managers are often on the front lines executing recruitment programs with high-touch law school and student interactions.
A critical portion of the survey focused on the context and motivators that drove recruitment strategies as a way to understand engagement approaches and desired outcomes.
“It seems that many law schools are now offering 1L focused in-person and/or virtual events in the fall - this is the busiest fall recruiting event schedule we have ever had, and we like this! More time to build relationships and identify top targets. ” - Legal Recruiting Manager at a mid-sized law firm
Our findings show a high participation rate in OCI, with over 97% stating that they participated in 2022 OCI programs and over 90% saying they participated in 6 or more programs.
Additionally, firms indicated at a high rate that they hired 1L students, with another 12% saying, "No, but we engage 1Ls for future 2L pipeline.’"
Next, we asked, “Did your office extend offers to candidates before 2022 OCI Programs?” This question strikes at the heart of the issue- are firms moving earlier with hires before OCI?
At first glance, we see over half of the firms surveyed are extending offers to candidates before OCI programs, but the majority of their offers are given out after OCI starts. A smaller, but not insignificant minority, extend more than half their total offers before OCI. Notably, a healthy number (32%) say they did not make any offers before OCI. However, a more nuanced picture emerges when we break this down by size.
When we look at firms with less than 350 attorneys, we see that a majority, 54%, stated they only extended offers after the 2022 OCI season started.
In contrast, those firms with over 700 attorneys had a much larger percentage of respondents who said they extended offers before 2022 OCI programs. Seventy-eight percent said they offered fewer than 50% of offers pre-OCI, with another 8% noting “Yes” to extending more than half of their offers before OCI began. Only 12% of firms with over 700 attorneys stated they did not extend offers pre-OCI. This data shows that larger firms are more likely to extend offers earlier than smaller firms.
The survey showed that most firms are engaging 1L students to get their name and firm culture out there to target students. If your firm isn’t engaging 1L students now, you may want to consider it in the future, as a large proportion of firms are making pre-OCI offers.
Desired outcomes of engagement are essential motivators that help shape and define strategy. The graph below shows that ‘Brand awareness on campus,’"Relationship building with candidates," and "Identification of top talent for pre-OCI interviews" held the top outcome choices for pre-summer student engagement.
Diving deeper into the data, firm size uncovers some noticeable differences.
Firms with less than 350 attorneys reported that they were more likely to view the identification of top talent to be the desired outcome of pre-summer student engagement (32%).
In contrast, those with 350 - 700 attorneys felt that Relationship building with candidates was the primary desired outcome.
Firms with over 700 attorneys gave ‘Brand awareness on campus’ as the leading answer at 37%, with relationship building (31%) and Identifying top talent (19%) coming as second and third.
According to this data, there is a correlation between firm size and the desired outcomes they’d like to achieve. For example, firms with less than 350 attorneys say that identifying top talent was the most desired outcome, vs. brand awareness or relationship building chosen by larger firms.
In the following results, we’ll examine the approach to student engagement. These findings can help educate readers on what firms are doing and the outcomes achieved to inform their engagement strategies.
“The timeline was also earlier and faster this season as more firms were doing pre-OCI interviewing, which hadn't been done in the past.” - Attorney Recruiting Manager at a mid-sized firm
The survey asked respondents, "When is (or was) your office’s first campus recruiting event following OCI 2022?" to determine the timeline for student engagement.
Answers showed that September and October were the most popular months to hold recruiting events after OCI, with just a few reporting hosting or attending events earlier in August or later in 2023. But, again, breaking down by firm size shows how these differ.
Firms with less than 350 attorneys stated that they held or planned on having events in September (23%) or October (30%), but 22% said they were holding out until 2023 to hold their first events to engage students for the 2023 recruiting cycle.
When we look at this same question for firms with over 700 attorneys, September and October were the most popular time frames. However, this group's sizable growth in August (18%) showed that larger firms are more likely to hold events after OCI than their smaller counterparts.
Our data shows, firms are doing more events earlier, and precruiting appears here to stay, especially for larger firms. Midsize firms should take note, however, given that they are often competing against BigLaw for the same candidates.
As many in the legal recruiting field are aware, the nature of law student engagement changed from a primarily in-person experience to almost wholly virtual. Now that most of the country has returned to in-person events, we wanted to find out how much engagement would go back to in-person vs. new, virtual approaches.
In this question, we asked, "What ratio of in-person to virtual engagements is your office aiming for this fall through next spring?"
From the chart, a slight majority (51%) said they will have a 50/50 ratio of in-person vs. virtual engagements, while 42% indicated that they would be "Mostly in-person.” These findings show that most firms are deploying a mixed, hybrid approach to engagement, including both in-person and virtual.
Our findings indicate that In-person is back as part of a long-term hybrid strategy. Firms of all sizes are embracing a hybrid approach to engagement, employing both in-person and virtual methods.
Finally, we asked how "How is your office advertising events to encourage attendance?"
The survey results indicated that a plurality selected "Shared to Career Service Offices for distribution" at 36%, but another 38% indicated "Other" with most writing in "all the above." This data shows that many firms employ a multifaceted approach to advertising their events.
We can uncover other interesting dynamics when we slice the data by firm size.
Firms with less than 350 attorneys said they are more likely to "share with Career Services Offices" (61%) than other methods. However, larger firms with more than 700 attorneys stated that they were more likely to "share with student groups for distribution" at 31%.
According to our survey, there is an advertising shift from Sharing to Career Services to Student Groups as firms become larger. This shift may be due to sponsorship opportunities of student groups of which larger firms are taking advantage.
Given this survey's findings, what takeaways can firms use to improve their engagement with law students?
Firstly, firms are doing more events earlier, and precruiting appears here to stay. However, this approach is more concentrated in larger firms. Midsize firms should take note, however, given that they are often competing against BigLaw for the same candidates.
Secondly, In-person is back as part of a long-term hybrid strategy. Firms of all sizes are embracing a hybrid approach to engagement, employing both in-person and virtual methods. It's important firms are able to pivot between both mediums effectively for the most successful strategy.
Thirdly, most firms are engaging 1L students to get their name and firm culture out there to target students. If your firm isn’t engaging 1L students now, you may want to consider it in the future, as a large proportion of firms are making pre-OCI offers. We expect this proportion to continue to increase.
Finally, respondents showed the desired outcomes of precruiting ranged from clearly identifying top talent in order to make offers early to a softer outcome of brand building. While each of these leads to the same output of hires, not all firms see the purposes of their precruiting efforts the same.
“I'd like everyone to stop using the term "precruiting" - we are just recruiting.” - Assistant Attorney Recruiting Director at a large law firm
We hope this survey helps you and your firm better understand the law school student recruiting arena with actionable insights you can use to drive deeper engagement. Learn more about how Flo Recruit enables law firms to host more recruiting events with a lean team, track candidates to understand the effectiveness, and convert event attendees into hires.
You can watch the recording here if you missed the Law Student Engagement Webinar or would like a refresher on the topics and information covered.
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