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Personal Fit or Organisational Fit – A study on Legal Recruitment

Posted by: Laurence Simons 10/06/15

Lauren A Rivera, a professor at the US’s Kellogg School of Management, has conducted a study of whether personal fit or organisational fit is the most important to consider whilst recruiting for a law firm – with the former emerging on top. The participants were comprised of 120 decision-makers in the top US law firms, investment banks and management consultancies.

 Many of those surveyed admitted to relying on instincts to choose a candidate, often counting on exercises such as the “airport test” in which they pick out the applicant they would most like to spend time with were they both stuck at an airport. The study also revealed that bonding between the interviewer and the interviewee often didn’t come through shared passions relating to clients, or even the job, but to shared interests and activities such as rowing in college, getting certified in scuba diving and, apparently, “sipping single-malt Scotches in the Highlands”.

But such unregulated practices can lead to problems. How? Firstly, it was noted that many of these occupations require money and are traditionally more masculine – and diversifying a law firm is difficult if all the lawyers come from similar backgrounds. Secondly, recruiting a team of lawyers with similar ages, genders, educations etc. can often create a “herd mentality” in which members can become “overconfident”, ignore advice and even make poor decisions, for example, during the global financial crisis in 2009.

So what can be done to avoid this? Well, according to Professor Rivera’s study, a much more structured legal recruitment process could greatly benefit individual law firms who have been guilty – often subconsciously – of hiring based on bias towards candidates that the interviewer bonds with. Perhaps implementing a set of particular values within interview processes could promote firms with increased diversity and minimal exclusion.

What more could your law firm do to guard against unconscious hiring bias?