Features - A Look at eAttorney and Elements of the Law School Placement Process

Roger Skalbeck is the Technology Services Librarian and Webmaster at George Mason University School of Law in Virginia, and he is a web committee member for the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.  Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of his employer or any other organization. This column, of course, is 100% free of any legal advice.


Introduction

The legal recruitment process for finding summer associates and new attorney hires can consume a lot of time and effort for all people involved, and it generally produces a lot of paper.  Currently, one company is positioned at the heart of this activity, trying to cut down on paperwork and make things a lot easier. Atlanta-based eAttorney has developed a series of Internet-based applications for law firms, law schools and job seekers at all levels, primarily oriented towards automating the legal recruitment process.  In this article, I’ll cover the existing and projected services offered by eAttorney, focusing on those oriented towards the recruitment of law school students and prospective graduates.

eAttorney was started in 1996 by current CEO Sam Kellett and Peter Sinden as a project for an MBA degree at the University of Georgia, and the company currently employs around 70 people.  eAttorney functions as what is called an Application Service Provider (ASP)1 for law schools and legal employers.  Briefly stated, this means that the company exists to support applications and services used by their clients, by hosting data and functionality in a central location on servers maintained by eAttorney.  At present, the core ASP functions provided by eAttorney exist to support the process of matching legal employers with law school job seekers.  All functions of the system are supported through an Internet browser interface, requiring only access to the Internet with a current version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. Kellett points out that most people who use eAttorney don’t even realize that they are using an ASP.

The system that supports the law school placement process is called OCI+, which stands for On-Campus Interviewing.  The basic intent of this system is to allow law schools to coordinate legal employer on-campus interviews with students who post their resumes online with the eAttorney system.  The system benefits users by providing a uniform interface for job postings, interview scheduling and communication with students.  Specific benefits for each user group are covered below in greater detail. At present, eAttorney reports a user base that include 55 law schools and 300 law firms, encompassing more than 75,000 users.

eAttorney’s relationship with NALP

OCI+ has been endorsed by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), the predominant organization providing research, guidelines and resources for legal career planning and recruitment.  As one example of their activities, NALP has developed a set of guidelines for legal recruitment, the “Principles and Standards for Law Placement and Recruitment Activities”, which detail principles for law schools, student candidates as well as employers.2

Based on information provided on their web site, NALP chose to endorse the OCI+ system after a comprehensive survey of NALP members, combined with three years of monitoring the development of OCI+ by eAttorney.  NALP members sit on the Advisory and Research and Development boards for eAttorney’s OCI+ software system, and NALP indicates that they will be able to use selective information from the eAttorney systems to help provide more current research data for their members.3

User-specific benefits of eAttorney’s OCI+ system

Now let’s take a look at some features of OCI+ for each of the three major user groups, with a note on some ideas for enhancement. 

Law School Career Service Offices

This group of users probably stands to benefit the most from eAttorney and OCI+ services, as career services offices spend a high percentage of time involved in helping to law students secure interviews and employment.  The biggest attraction for OCI+ here is that it automates a very complex system of job posting, interview tracking and overall scheduling in a secupre, password-protected environment.  Also, the eAttorney system allows career services offices to dictate the method by which students can bid on positions, and employers can select students.  For example some schools use a lottery system for matching students with employers, while others need to prescreen students for only selected employers.  eAttorney purports to support all of these options.

OCI+ provides a facility for career services people to email law students who use the system, though much of this might be largely serviced by existing email programs or listservs.  One possible enhancement would be a facility for placement offices to notify selective students of new jobs based on pre-selected criteria.

Law Students

Law students can search available job postings online, and the OCI+ system supports a dynamic system allowing students to bid on employers and to receive scheduling information for interviews.  Student users can upload their resumes, which are converted from resident Word or WordPerfect files to Adobe's Portable Document Format.  In addition to this, students can select which firms can see their resumes, and they can also post tailored resumes and supporting materials as a part of a prospective interview.  Of course, one major advantage of eAttorney for students is that it can be accessed over the Internet at any time.

George Mason University fourth-year evening law student Robert Pilaud used the eAttorney system on a regular basis, and provides the following suggestions for improvement. He suggests that the search options be expanded to include:  key-word or Boolean searching options, filtering of positions based on geographic criteria more specific than strict state boundaries, and notification of new listings based on pre-defined search elements.  In addition to this, Pilaud expresses an interest in providing students with more flexibility and specificity for listing elements of their background or qualifications, or "putting your best foot forward" as he terms it.

Law Firm Recruitment Offices

Law firms that elect to use the OCI+ system can obtain released resumes online, and can also post jobs directly on the site.  In talking with Rachel Rosado, Professional Recruiting Coordinator for Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, she indicates that the eAttorney system is a great backup system, and works well to help organize things.  However, she also notes that the eAttorney system does not replace all recruitment aspects, which means that they still rely on traditional communication through mailings and confirming phone calls.  One thing Rosado noted as a desired enhancement would be to allow firms some of the same reporting functions that law schools have available.

It seems that at present, legal recruitment offices are the ones who are least likely to utilize eAttorney on a regular basis, but for the process of coordinating on-campus interviews, it should be extremely useful.  Based on information provided by NALP and eAttorney, one other advantage of the OCI+ system for employers is that they can be given the opportunity to post job listings for students even if they don’t participate directly with an on-campus interview process. To some extent, this should help smaller and geographically distant firms to stake a presence within a school.

Overall Usage Issues

For all of the groups who use the eAttorney, system reliability and flexibility are of utmost concern.  Based on conversations I have had with users of the system at different levels, it seems that eAttorney has something less than 100% reliability with their existing systems.  Unfortunately, I don’t have specific data relating to average system “up time” or other reliability factors, but multiple users have expressed concern that the eAttorney system is not always available. Since eAttorney functions as a centrally-located ASP, this is somewhat of a double-edge sword for users. Enhancements and upgrades can be deployed on a systemwide basis for the benefit of all users, but any system outage might impact all users at the same time. Nonetheless, the larger user base should mean that system problems are addressed more quickly for all users.

Other options for job seekers

Though it is a bit of an “apples and oranges” comparison, I think it prudent to point out that there are other sites on the Internet to find legal placement listings.  The Legal Employment Search Site provides links to over one hunderd legal-specific and general employment sites.  Some of the more feature-rich sites mentioned by law student Robert Pilaud include:  Emplawyernet, FindLaw’s Infirmation, Yahoo! Careers, and the Matindale-Hubbell Legal Career Center, just to name a few.  For clerkship positions within the federal judiciary, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts also recently released their Federal Law Clerk Information System, which provides a comprehensive database of federal law clerk openings across the country. 

Again, these kinds of sites differ greatly from the core purpose of eAttorney’s OCI+ system of coordinating the whole process of interviewing and recruitment.  In fact, with regards to online legal recruitment in general, a fairly recent article stresses that a lot of people still rely primarily on the traditional methods of mailing resumes and networking to find out about jobs.  Here, a career services director at New York Law School cites the danger of online searching of jobs.  “The danger, she said, is that students will think that all jobs are posted on-line and that all sites are good sources for listings.”4

Regardless of additional support functionality, job seekers will naturally gravitate towards a source that offers them the best resources.  In this context, “best” will naturally include not only the nature and number of listings, but it will also encompass available search features and functionality. eAttorney aims to provide employment listings for lateral attorney hires as well as those who have already graduated from law school, so their employment listings will naturally be compared to other companies, some of which might offer distinctly different core services.

New business plans for eAttorney

Additional sources for information on eAttorney:

October 2000 Issue of the ASP Outsourcing Journal:

“Spotlight on eAttorney Helping with Marketing & Client Relations”. In: Marketing for Lawyers. September 2000. Vol. 14, no. 5, p. 7.

From talking with firm CEO Kellett, it sounds like eAttorney has grand plans to expand their business offerings, especially for law firm users.  Kellett indicates that in early 2001, they plan on launching an expanded suite of ASP services, providing options for support of front- and back-office operations.  These will range from managing anything from calendars to contacts or documents to almost any computer-based aspect of a legal matter.  Kellett indicates that these new services will be primarily geared towards the small and mid-sized law firm market, with users able to pick and choose between the services that they wish to utilize. 

It is not surprising to see that the smaller offices are being targeted with new ASP services, as these users are probably the most likely to want to utilize outside companies to support their technology needs.  In this context as well, it seems likely that smaller law firms will be less likely to have extensive recruitment offices or an existing infrastructure to support a complex system of on-campus interviews.  Based on this, it seems very logical that a full suite of ASP offerings would be of interest to smaller firms, especially if integrated with a recruitment facility.

Whatever the case with additional developments and offerings from eAttorney, their OCI+ system is a great foundation for automating the process of matching law student job seekers with those offering positions.  Let’s hope that eAttorney continues to enhance and develop their suite of services to the benefit of all involved users, improving an impressive service.

Footnotes

1  There are a number of sources available discussing the phenomenon of Application Service Providers (ASPs) for the legal industry.  Recently on LLRX.com, I ran a two-part series on Legal ASPs in the column: Notes from the Technology Trenches. (Part 1, Part 2)  <back to text>

2  The full text of these principles, which are based on guidelines adopted in the early 1960s are found on the NALP site at: http://www.nalp.org/PandS/pands.htm.  Part V of these standards set out the timing of offers and decisions for law students, which are summarized in a chart found at: http://www.nalp.org/PandS/ptvchart.htm.  <back to text>

3  Specific information about the relationship between NALP and eAttorney can be found on the NALP site at:  http://www.nalp.org/Links/eatty.htm.  This document also details additional perceived benefits of this alliance for law schools, legal employers and student users.  <back to text>

4  Schacher, Yael.  “On-Line Recruiting Has Not Replaced The Old Methods”.  In: New York Law Journal, April 10, 2000, p. S9.  <back to text>

Copyright © 2000 Roger V. Skalbeck. All Rights Reserved.