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October 28, 2008 11:30 AM

Letter to Fall Recruits: Clean Up Your (Cyber)Space

Posted by Ed Shanahan

By Lynne Traverse

Right now at law firms across the country, recruiters are making tough choices and considering tough questions. How many offers to extend? When to send out the rejection letters? When to take candidates off the hold list?

Let's face it, the stakes are higher this year, and the climate is dramatically more competitive. Many firms are lowering targets and calling back fewer candidates. Bottom line, as a result of dire economic times, employers are proceeding with extreme caution, reducing the size of summer programs, and calling back fewer of the candidates who would have received offers in the past.

Given the challenges we all face, there is no room for errors, missteps, or anything less than your best effort. You probably have heard plenty about the basic do's and don'ts this recruiting season, but it's just as important to stop, consider, and revisit things that you don't necessarily realize we're looking at. Like a blog, for instance. In today's job market it is imperative that students do everything they can to avoid anything that might give an employer reason to question whether or not to extend an offer. Let's start with your online persona. 

NALP's Principles and Standards strongly advise law schools to "counsel students about the importance of maintaining a professional image on the Internet." Still, items like blogs and Web pages often are overlooked.

This fall one of our lawyers spotted a cheery entry on an interviewee's blog, entered by the student's spouse. Excitedly, the spouse gushed about the cities where the student hoped to be employed, any of them being great choices for their family. One problem: our city was not listed. It seems innocuous enough, maybe, and not a reason to lose an offer. Still it is a great example of what I am talking about.  We invest a lot of money in our summer associates. It's important that we find candidates who really want to work at our firm, in our city. Learning that our city is not even a 5th choice leads us to doubt your future commitment to us.

Now, the lesson here has more to do with how we came to discover the "family blog." We didn't have to go looking for it--we don't do that. In this case the blog was referenced on the candidate's resume.
If it's on the resume, it's fair game.

Blogs are dangerous since they tend to contain random, stream of consciousness entries as well as posts from people other than the job candidate.  Your job search is reason enough to give the blog, or the Web page, a regular, diligent review for items employers might not appreciate. Or, if nothing else, don't list the blog on your resume.

I realize many people today maintain blogs and are committed to them. If so, how about turning this activity into something that will benefit your job search? List and describe student and community activities that are meaningful to you, or perhaps discuss a legal research project or issue. A blog can be a great way to share meaningful and important information about yourselves that we won't necessarily learn from a resume or in an interview.

Similarly, consider what your FaceBook or other social/professional networking pages contain. Have you taken a close look and asked yourself, 'how will this come off?' Watch out for those party pictures and personal information you don't think an employer will see. Have you "Googled" yourself lately? Again, employers and students are discouraged from conducting online research, but some firms will do a quick Google search. I was shocked by how much information popped up when I entered my own name recently.  It may not be bad (fortunately mine was not) but if you know it is out there, you can be proactive if necessary.

This is a tough year. Anecdotally, summer programs are quickly being filled, from what some employers are saying. If you have successfully completed your process, it is time to make a decision, not only for your benefit, but for the benefit of other candidates waiting for an answer.

In the meantime don't let anything, even seemingly small online missteps, get in the way of an offer.

Lynne Traverse is recruiting and professional development manager at Bryan Cave.

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I've interviewed enough first year candidates to know that a facebook/google search always follows that first round. I can't think of a case where it has disqualified a candidate, but I'm sure it happens all the time.

J

It's true that internet personas can unintentionally undermine a law student's future. However, for all the "don't's" listed it would seem there are plenty of "do's." Facebook profiles aren't necessarily an enemy to law students. Take for example the new trend of big firms having pages on Facebook (i.e., see Curtis, Mallet-Prevost). Certainly a law student will want to clean up their Facebook profile before they join firm groups but it shows that a Facebook profile may actually be a great networking tool. Beyond Facebook there is a new professional social network called Legal OnRamp. There law students and young professionals can join a social network that is designed for to further their careers and share information that may be helpful as firms are experiencing troubles amidst the financial crisis. Ultimately social networks like Facebook and Legal OnRamp are great tools for law students and young attorneys.

Notes:
--http://www.legalonramp.com
--http://law.lexisnexis.com/webcenters/newattorney/BBLP--/Firms-on-Facebook--Freaky
--http://abovethelaw.com/2008/08/law_firms_invade_facebook.php

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