Many law firms are currently experiencing challenges finding qualified associates. So what’s a law firm to do? I have four suggestions. 

  1. Take a page from Goldman Sachs. They recently expanded the pool of candidates they interview for entry level positions. Broadening the perimeters of their typical search (Ivy League schools) resulted in significantly improving the quality of their hires*. This same approach can be applied to associate hiring. Don’t dismiss candidates because they did not go to your alma mater or worked at a firm that you consider substandard to your own. Canada’s law schools are superb – all of them. And all their graduates deserve your consideration.

  2. Change your approach to interviewing. Most hiring decisions are made within 15 seconds of the interview’s commencement. We have knee-jerk reactions to people – either good or bad. Then confirmation bias kicks in and we hunt for evidence that confirms our initial impression of the candidate. Do your best to stop yourself from deciding upon the candidate’s hireability until the end of the interview.
  3. Consider bias traps. Attractive people are more likely to be hired, as are taller people. Moderately overweight female candidates are less likely to be hired. Unfortunately, knowing that you have biases doesn’t mean that you won’t be biased. You must work against these first impressions and drill down to objective criteria: does this person have the necessary qualifications to do the job? Developing a scorecard for your firm’s hiring needs is a good first step to ensuring that you’re covering relevant points during the interview and assessing against objective criteria.

  4. Dump behavioural interviews. Eighty percent of candidates would take one job over another based on personal connections made in the interview process**. Therefore, developing rapport with the candidate is critical. This is next to impossible to do in a behavioural interview, which are typically filled with awkward silences and are evaluative in nature. Not ideal for the “passive” candidate (i.e., the candidate who wasn’t actively looking for a position). There’s also research that indicates that behavioural interview questions predictive value was only 12% better than a coin flip.***

  5. Ask candidates this question: “What are your must haves?”. Then sell to that point, bearing in mind that this is not a caveat emptor situation. If you are less than truthful, the candidate might accept your offer, but chances are excellent that your new hire won’t stay long. It’s hard to come back from a lie.


*Expanding the Pool by Dana E. Holmes, Global Head of Human Capital Management, Goldman Sachs

** Mattersight Corporation: 2016 survey of 1,031 office employees 

*** Harvard Professor’s Research Suggests That Current Hiring Processes are Deeply Flawed by Lou Adler, January 27, 2016,

Copyright © 2020 Deborah Glatter. All rights reserved.