The Firm as a Consumer in an External Labor Market (continued)

 

The Building a Better Legal Profession research project included two different goals, we created over-arching research questions as well as sub-questions for each. Broadly, the two-fold aims of our group's project is to Mobilize students via the internet using the Google Adwords Grant and other electronic media and to encourage law school career service offices to adopt the BBLP website and provide students with a link to it on their official sites.

 AdWords:
Main Question: How do we get the greatest CTR (click-thru rate)? How can we maximize the number of people who are clicking on our ads?

Sub-Questions:

  • Is positive, negative, or neutral marketing most effective?
  • Which websites (firm-specific or general websites, i.e. amlaw, etc.) are most effective?
  • Is it best to target students, clients, or lawyers?
  • What topic area (diversity, layoffs, work-life balance) get the highest number of clicks?

OCS:

Main Question:  How do we get the "Top 20" law schools to incorporate BBLP data?

Sub-Questions
:

  •  
    • What are the Office of Career Services using now?
    • How do we introduce them to our product?

Our methodology in conducting our analysis was compiling a database of the OCS contact information for the top-20 (as listed by USNews and World Report) law schools in the nation and calling and/or emailing them with a questionnaire we created in order to discern their current practices and make a more focused marketing plan for convincing the offices to incorporate BBLP data into their advising programs.

 OCS Questionnaire

1.           How would you currently describe the purpose of your school's Office Career Services?

2.           What services do you currently provide for law students looking for career options? What resources?

3.           What are some of the most popular resources on your website or what online resources do you consistently refer students to during information sessions or one-on-one meetings?

4.           What plans does your OCS have in the future to expand services to students to help them get jobs? Are there any changes you are considering as a result of the current job market?  

5.           What do you believe to be the main factor that leads students at your school to choose the firms at which they decide to work? Prestige? Work-life balance? How has this changed in the current job market?

6.           What do you believe to be the most important factor for students to consider when selecting a firm?

7.           Are students made aware of billable hours, diversity rankings, etc.? If so, what do you do to make sure that your students are aware of them?

8.           How important do you believe your students consider diversity at firms?

9.           How important does your OCS consider diversity at firms?

10.        What other ways are there to allow students to better understand the law firms they are potentially working for?

11.        Are you aware of Building a Better Legal Profession's services?

12.        Do you believe the information provided by BBLP is important to students?

13.        How can we add to the resources that your office has to offer the students at X?

The six members of our group broke up the contact list and each made between three and six calls over the course of a week. We were able to conduct interviews with four of the 22 schools and found that of the four, three were similar and one, Stanford, was a bit of an outlier in the qualitative feedback we received.

Vanderbilt, Washington University at St. Louis and UC Berkeley all had a few things in common. They all stated that they "offer traditional counseling services and resources", that they offer no resources for diversity, and that students are expected to do individual research about law-firm work-life balance and diversity. They all use NALP and furthermore have all never heard of BBLP.

 Our interview with Stanford, however, gave us a bit of insight into how some offices who have heard of BBLP think and provided the most tangible base from where we could tailor our marketing plan. I interviewed Renee Watts, Stanford Law School's Career Services Coordinator.   The beginning of our conversation went relatively smoothly; we talked about the fact that many strongly consider prestige when considering which firm they see themselves at, and also the fact  that work-life balance was becoming of growing importance to many students.

 When approached about diversity, however, the conversation began to tense up. As mentioned in Appendix A, our proposed tips for making these OCS calls, diversity tends to be a touchy subject and must be approached in a very tactful manner. I was told that Stanford Law School does value diversity and does "aim to help its diverse students find jobs at firms at which they will be comfortable." When pressed on what factors they consider most important in the firm-selection process, however, the answer was simply "finding the right fight."

The most informative part of our conversation came when I asked Ms. Watts whether she'd heard of BBLP. She first stated that she didn't feel comfortable talking about it, then said she'd heard of it but didn't know enough about it to comment, and finally confirmed that she knew about BBLP but "didn't know where they got their information from and whether or not it was accurate." Thus the main point we got from our Stanford interview, the only school we interviewed that had heard of BBLP, was a reluctance to believe that BBLP data was legitimate. 

Despite my assertions that all of BBLP's data came from NALP and was thus self-reported by the firms that were being ranked, the Stanford Office of Career Services insisted that they couldn't speak on the validity of BBLP's data. BBLP as of now has done ample to illustrate how the data is collected and why it is legitimate; the methodology portion contains a nearly 10-page document entitled "How we did this" that breaks down the entire process. BBLP however, I believe, is so successful and interesting to students because of the easy-to-navigate and in your face kind of way that data is presented. There is no reading of long, esoteric documents and data charts to find the information you're looking for. You simply scroll through a menu and get a list of firms ranked from A to F-what could be clearer? This same tactic should be employed to illustrate the legitimacy of BBLP data. As a result, I'm a strong advocate of the idea of linking all BBLP rankings pages to the NALP pages where the data is taken from. I'd like to see this links on each and every page so that students, firms, Offices of Career Services, and all those interested can rest assured of the legitimacy of BBLP data and fully understand, without any doubt, that the information is pulled from data that is self-reported by the firms. People have a very strong faith in NALP and by showcasing that our data is merely NALP data, we can solidify our own legitimacy.

Create advertising campaign materials

The second recommendation I'd give is the creation of a presentation to send or present to the Offices of Career Services around the nation illustrating why BBLP should become a part of their advising program. The presentation, or even pamphlet, would include all of the information included in this paper and the methodology on BBLP's website, and would ideally also include the endorsements and positive reviews that BBLP has garnered over the years.  Inspire students to demand BBLP services from their own offices.  

Advocacy work can be done from long-distance, can be done from our base here at Stanford, and can be done via telephone and internet. How much stronger of an effect, however, would advocacy have on OCS if the voices were from their very own halls? Two years ago I went on a recruitment trip with BBLP across the country, setting up BBLP chapters from 

Columbia to Harvard to Yale. These chapters will be instrumental in appealing to their own Offices of Career Services for the changes they wish to see. These chapters should be provided with the tools, like the aforementioned advertising materials, as well as knowledge of the way in which BBLP works and why it is important to students at their law school.  

            In all, we found that students find issues such a diversity and work-life balance very important in deciding which law firms would be the best fit for them. Our aim is to encourage Offices of Career Services, all of which state their dedication to finding students "good matches" and often rely on NALP data, to incorporate BBLP data on diversity and work-life balance in 

their counseling, advising, and/or resources, even with something as simple as a link to the BBLP website on their OCS sites. If BBLP were to indeed link to NALP on their rankings to illustrate the legitimacy of their findings, it would virtually eliminate most doubts. The marketing materials and presentations created would serve to introduce schools such as UC Berkeley, who has never heard of the organization, to BBLP, as would the advocacy of students at these schools.

 

Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP) is an organization based at Stanford Law School.   BBLP is a national grassroots movement that seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms. For more information, visit BBLP's Web site at www.betterlegalprofession.org.

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