Law firms have discovered YouTube.
Actually, they have discovered that the law students they are trying to recruit as summer associates watch the popular Internet video site.
Several firms are trying to parlay that discovery into a hiring tool, creating recruiting videos and Web sites with the look and feel of YouTube. 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’s efforts have run the gamut from simple conversations with summer associates to videos promoting the firm’s expertise or its diversity.
“The videos are still kind of in the early days,” said Brian Dalton, the senior law editor at Vault Reports, which ranks law firms. “A lot of them come off seeming like hostage videos.”
There are exceptions. Choate Hall & Stewart, a Boston firm with about 200 lawyers, has developed a series inspired by Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” advertisements.
Actors, rather than associates, are used in the ads.
In four spots called “Choate vs. Megafirm,” a hapless male associate at Megafirm is seen variously trying to find his briefcase in one of his employer’s many offices; tied up in rope, explaining that the firm placed him in “leveraged lease and ship financing” when he really wanted litigation; and clad in a business suit with an inner tube around his waist, on his “working” vacation.
His counterpart, a female associate at Choate, is rather smug as she explains how life there is different. Just as on YouTube, there are ratings – albeit fake.
The Choate videos were created by Greenfield Belser, a Washington marketing company that specializes in law firms. Its president, Burkey Belser, decided to parody the Apple ads in part because of a limited budget. The firm charged Choate $75,000 for the 4 ads and 20 testimonials from 9 summer associates and other lawyers.
Belser said that he had coached the Choate associates to whittle their testimonials to 30 seconds and tell them from a red-leather armchair meant to tie in with the firm’s choice of red as a branding color. In one testimonial, the law student talks about his participation in a Swedish folk trio. Another student talks about her college thesis on horror films.
In contrast, the recruiting site at Morrison & Foerster of San Francisco challenges law students, asking if they have the “mojo” needed to join the firm.
The site was revamped last year by a finance partner, Anna Pinedo, who said the previous version was “boring.”
One link under “achievements” draws the firm’s definition of a phenomenon it calls “rankophilia.” It offers law students the chance to list their own rankings, from ugliest vegetables to most addictive snack foods.
But an attempt by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, a Los Angeles firm where flip-flops are acceptable footwear, to be hip backfired. The firm started a Web site, which, among other things, was to feature “A Day in the Life of an Associate.” The video tells the story of Ivey, a young woman who is first seen as she develops photos in her darkroom and plays Ultimate Frisbee. Ivey (an actress) says that she has a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a law degree from Stanford University in California. She is wearing a form-fitting shirt, blue jeans and chunky necklaces as she consults with the partners.
But when the Web site went live last week, the video did not appear.
“Some of the associates, some of the partners, thought it was too contrived; maybe corny was probably a better word,” said A. William Urquhart, the firm’s hiring partner.