Company: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Innovation Title: Shaping Your Future virtual recruitment series
Organization Website: www.akingump.com
Year Introduced: 2020
The legal industry has consistently faced the challenge of identifying and hiring diverse legal talent. As a result, law firms have been evaluating their recruitment strategies and are now looking beyond their traditional approach to hiring, which has involved focusing on a select group of law schools and standards.
Last year, Akin Gump’s Firmwide Resource Groups (FRG) created Shaping Your Future, a career development series for law students offered in a virtual format and open to all law students, which allowed for a greater reach. Each program focused on a different topic and was hosted by lawyers from our Asian, Black, Latinx, Women’s and Parents and Caregivers FRGs, who provided authentic advice and guidance relevant to law students. (See examples here, and here.)
Traditional law-student recruiting programs are focused on a particular set of schools and often target students with a specific profile. The Shaping Your Future series allowed Akin Gump to interact with a larger group of diverse students who attended schools outside those from which we typically recruit. All law school students were invited to attend, but the firm recognized this was a unique opportunity to engage with minority students in particular.
During the pandemic, firms were unable to rely on critical in-person, on-campus activities to establish relationships with students and provide guidance to students seeking to navigate the legal profession. Akin Gump lawyers looked beyond these barriers to develop a virtual series aimed at providing guidance and opportunities for all law students. The events were advertised in various ways, including targeted LinkedIn advertisements, and open to any student who expressed an interest. Content was developed based on questions submitted in advance by the attendees, which allowed lawyers to provide authentic insight and advice. The primary purpose was to support and inform law students, not just to recruit students for Akin Gump.
Akin Gump partners (and recent Diversity Journal award honorees) Jaelyn Edwards Judelson and Estela Diaz spoke in depth about the program and its success on an episode of Law.com’s podcast series, Legal Speak (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hundreds-law-students-are-showing-up-for-candid-discussions/id1286870904?i=1000509841094).
The events attracted the largest and most diverse groups of law students the firm has ever hosted, reaching 450+ students from 40 schools. Attendees were from a wide variety of schools, including schools where the firm does not typically recruit, giving lawyers the opportunity to reach a group that we would not otherwise connect with in person. Students made comments regarding the authenticity and genuine insight provided by the lawyers, with one attendee saying, “[T]hank you again for leading this webinar and speaking on the challenges and rewards of being a woman in the legal field. As a 1L at Georgetown Law School, I am just beginning my journey as a woman in my legal career and was comforted by the encouragement and successes of you and your fellow female colleagues at Akin Gump.’”
In addition, the firm recruited its most diverse summer associate class in 2021 with 43 percent of the class identifying as racially or ethnically diverse. The firm also received top marks in The American Lawyer’s and Law360’s 2021 Summer Associates surveys, which ask respondents to rate their firms across a variety of categories, including quality of work, guidance and training, and inclination to accept an offer. The firm plans to host a series of recruiting programs, partnering the FRGs, throughout the remainder of the year.