By Kevin O'Keefe

Law firm recruiting video as featured in NY Times has problems

Wired GC’s John Wallbillich, a former general counsel in the Midwest and founder of Lexvista Partners picked up on this morning’s NY Times story on the use video by law firms. The goal of the firms – to recruit the YouTube generation.

The firms hope to persuade students that their lawyers, and by extension the firms, are young-thinking and hip.

The need to attract top-notch summer associates is crucial; they are the pool from which most new hires are made. More than 19,000 graduates join law firms each year.

So far, the firms’ efforts have run the gamut from simple conversations with summer associates to videos promoting the firm’s expertise or its diversity.

Law firms may have to cover a couple conflicting bases here. That’s making their videos appear professional so as to ‘maintain the firm’s image’ while at the same time appealing to a YouTube audience which sees videos being done in a more spontaneous fashion.

Law students can tell the difference between video’s that cost $75,000 or are produced by PBS documentary veterans and the type of video young people themselves havee shot and seen all over the Internet. Assuming the goal of the firms is to be more like the recruits and less like other law firms, law firms are going to need to let their hair down a bit.

Plus having the law firm video stored on YouTube, as opposed to merely saying we’re doing YouTube like stuff, has advantages. One young people trust the YouTube brand. Two, YouTube video’s can be easily taken and played at other blogs and web sites. Law firms should want to have their videos displayed by potential recruits at the recruit’s own blogs – extends the reach of the video’s and gets them in more trusted environments.

Wallbillich summarizes law firms’ challenge.

…[V]ideo is going to be much more common on law firm web sites in the future. But if the process is directed solely by marketers, law firms will miss some of the real impact that this personalization of their practice could make.

Great to see law firms using video, but to hit the mark they’ll need to get closer to Scoble walking around Microsoft shooting impromptu video, including videos with CEO, Steve Balmer, and Chief Engineer, Bill Gates. Those videos of 4 or 5 years ago did an incredibly effective job in reducing the ‘evil empire’ view of Microsoft.

Update: Searchviews on NY Times article:

While the attempt by these firms to embrace the social media movement is admirable, I question their use of YouTube to portray their firms as the ‘hip place to work.’ Social media is founded on a philosophy of transparency and full disclosure. It’s a two-way conversation wherein users are able to question and challenge the marketer – or, in this case, the potential employer’s self-representation. After all, having recently spent a year with a the District Attorney’s Office, I can assure you that young associates and lawyers do not spend their days bouncing around on ‘hop balls’ as one firm’s video depicts.

A more effective use of these firms’ time and money would be to embrace social media in a different fashion. Rather than trying to paint a rosy picture of a work environment that may or may not exist, law firms would be wise to create an honest dialogue between potential candidates and current summer associate (or new hires). For example, what if a firm sponsored a Q&A forum moderated by current summer associates? Could they create a Facebook/Myspace group created for the sole purpose of bringing together new and potential hires? Or, how about a ‘Day in the Life Of’ blog written by a recent hire?

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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