I had the pleasure of interviewing Janet Stanton and Bruce MacEwen from JD Match recently. If you’re familiar with Adam Smith, Esq., you’ll know Bruce and Janet and their expertise on the economics of law firms. If you’re not, check out their bios here.
For those of you who didn’t catch the wave of discussion online (e.g.) surrounding the site’s official launch, JD Match is a new entrant in the online recruiting game. It’s a membership service founded in April 2011 to address the flawed system for recruiting law students into law firms. Registration is open to U.S. law schools, law students and firms seeking to hire from law schools. You can learn more about them on Facebook, Twitter, and their website.
FTH: Why create JD Match now? Is there really a demand for it?
JD Match: Yikes! This is one of those global questions. Fundamentally, JD Match addresses what is universally viewed as a chaotic and inefficient law student/law firm recruiting model. Recently, the flaws have been exacerbated as a) the on-campus interviewing process has become increasingly compressed and b) the recent recession caused the train wreck of classes piling into one another.
Even before the train wreck caused by the recession, people have been complaining about the dysfunction in law student recruiting seemingly forever, but not much had actually been done about it.
For example, offers and acceptances are out of synch. The sad result? Too many students could be holding out for their #1 firm to come through with an offer and choose to pass on an offer received from their #4 firm. Of course if firm #1 doesn’t deliver, students could end up with no offers at all.
Similarly, some students may be tempted to hoard offers. While this may be rational for them as individuals, it harms other students that firms don’t extend offers to while the firm is waiting to hear from the hoarder, and it hurts all the firms the hoarder ultimately rejects who could have used that valuable time in pursuit of more realistic students. The increased transparency inherent in JD Match should help obviate these unwelcome and frustrating outcomes.
Further, the increasingly compressed OCI process has unfortunate consequences for students and firms. Even the largest firms are struggling with the need to be present at schools conducting their OCI at exactly the same time. The impact on smaller firms is more severe, as underscored by data coming out of NALP showing reduced participation in OCI among mid-sized firms. Therefore, firms miss out on great candidates and students miss out on promising opportunities. One of JD Match’s features, JD Reach, allows firms to discover qualified candidates, even if firms don’t go to the campuses of those students.
We ourselves had written about the problems inherent in the system on Adam Smith, Esq. as far back as several years ago. But rather than continue to complain from the sidelines, we decided to take the bull by the horns.
Then an interesting thing happened. JD Match may have started as a rational exploration of a broken market but as we delved deeper we came to appreciate the profound human toll exacted by the dysfunction of current recruiting practices which resulted in too many mismatches, forcing young associates back into an already-crowded market. Solving for this further galvanized our sense of purpose.
JD Match’s offer of increased order, transparency and efficiency is meeting a market demand of firms and students, alike.
Your website says JD Match is a more “rational process.” What’s more rational about JD Match? And why should we care?
An underlying premise of ours is that mutual interest between a student and a firm will lead to longer-lasting, more satisfying matches. To that end, the algorithm identifies matches between students and firms where there is the highest degree of mutual interest.
Again due to the algorithm, students know that within the JD Match system, they receive the best and highest match available to them. And, firms know they receive the best available candidates for their open slots. This cuts down on a lot of second-guessing and, yes, angst on both sides. Knowing that you’ve done the best you can, even if less than you wanted, brings a higher degree of certainty and reassurance.
This year’s NALP employment numbers are out, and they show that the class of 2010 had some of the worst employment outcomes of the last 20 years. And, predictions are that the recovery in law land will be slow. In this environment, it seems both logical and prudent for students to pursue all credible options to obtain gainful employment at a firm.
What sort of criteria goes into JD Match’s search algorithm? Is it just data points of the LSAT, GPA, class rank variety? Or does it give weight to other factors, like location, experience, etc.? Or is it something completely different? Also, what are the sorts of “preferences” that firms and students have to select from?
The only “criteria” that go into the algorithm are the preferences of each member student and member firm. The reason is rooted in Econ 101; no one else is in a better position to know what’s good for you than you. For us to include any other factors would, in essence, be making assumptions of what matters to each individual student and firm. As we all know, law students and law firms are a diverse bunch and are not all looking for the same things.
Once firms have identified criteria they’re interested in, be it something as basic as college attended, or as granular as “chess player,” JD Match makes it very easy for firms to find students who match those criteria.
This is also provided via JD Reach which extends the reach of firms to discover students they haven’t met or who may be from schools they may not visit. During recruiting season, JD Match can identify students matching certain particular characteristics each firm individually specifies. For example, firms can search for students in the top 10% of their class at Tier 2 law schools, or for fluent Mandarin speakers. Firms can also use freeform keyword searches of their own devising such as “chess,” “Latin,” or “track and field.” For this reason, we are encouraging students to create a robust profile and represent themselves more accurately to firms, as people; not just class rank and GPA. Students can upload their resume, writing samples, articles, messages to firms, etc., enhancing their chances of being found by firms who are seeking candidates like them.
Similarly, firms have great latitude in what they can include in their profiles, from a simple link to their career services page on their firm’s website, descriptions of their practice areas or distinct advantages, up to and including videos.
After spending significant amounts of money on a law degree, how does a recent graduate or a young lawyer decide whether JD Match is the right investment for them?
Student membership in JD Match is less than $100 per year. This is equivalent to one law school application and less than LSAT fees. This provides students an additional option to find a position at a firm as JD Match does not replace the current practices.
Moreover, the feedback from the algorithm provides real market feedback as to where students more likely fit in the market allowing them to make more realistic choices. Further, JD Match allows more firms to discover more students than before – even from schools the firm didn’t visit. Finally, for students at the end of OCI without an offer, JD Match offers JD Recommends. This is a separate algorithm (yes, we shamelessly stole the phrase from Amazon – “We have recommendations for you.”) that develops a composite profile of students a firm did rank highly and searches for unmatched students who fit that profile and “recommends” them to the firm. It is up to the firm how they choose to use this information.
And, one note of clarification, currently, JD Match is available to current students, only (1Ls/2Ls/3Ls/LLMs). We have plans to include recent grads who don’t yet have a job.
Thank you for that clarification on that last point. I would think that for a student with limited current prospects this would be a sound strategic investment. What advice would you have for a young lawyer just entering the workforce?
- You have a 40-year career ahead of you; it’s going to be a marathon and not a sprint.
- The most valuable asset you will ever have is your own human, personal and intellectual capital. Do your utmost to build its value every day. Nobody will do it for you and no one else will be looking out for you the way you can for yourself.
- You may think the first question you have to answer is whether you want to be a practicing lawyer all your life. That’s the wrong question.
- The right question, or rather the right way to find out what you ought to do, is to pursue different things until you find the one you’re absolutely passionate about doing. That might be as a lawyer (a litigator! A securities lawyer! A small company startup lawyer!) or it might not be. But if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, work will become a grind and you’ll never be as successful as people who are doing the same thing you are and are passionate about it.
- You’ll know the answer to #4 when you see it.
About Janet Stanton, CEO of JD Match
Janet graduated from Vassar College and entered the business world. She worked in brand management at Johnson & Johnson and went on to notable advertising agencies such as Grey and Benton & Bowles. She spent 16 years at Bates Worldwide, reaching the level of Executive Vice President and was then President of a mid-sized agency near Philadelphia. Janet served as Director of Client Relationships Program at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and joined Adam Smith, Esq. in 2008. She is currently Chair of the Development Committee of Doug Varone and Dancers, an established contemporary dance company. Janet is based in New York.
About Bruce MacEwen, President of JD Match
Bruce received his undergraduate degree from Princeton, magna cum laude in Economics and earned his JD at Stanford Law. He practiced at two distinguished firms in New York, Breed, Abbot & Morgan and Shea & Gould. Following that, Bruce practiced in-house for 10 years at Morgan Stanley/Dean Witter. In 2002, he founded Adam Smith, Esq., LLC which is both a management consultancy to large, sophisticated law firms as well as an online publication. Recent engagements for the consultancy have included developing strategic plans for firms, and advising on the consequences of the “Great Reset” as well as the trend towards increasing segmentation among Global 100 firms. The publication generates 4-million page-views/year and focuses on such topics as strategy, leadership, globalization, M&A, finance, compensation, and cultural considerations. Readership skews to senior management at the largest firms. Bruce is currently a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management and is based in New York.