Gaming It: O’Melveny Takes Talent Search Online to Expand Recruitment Base

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What if law firms could improve their ability to recruit the best lawyers, free of any bias, by having them play games online?

The partnership at O’Melveny & Myers is about to find out.

In a first-of-its-kind move for Big Law, the Los Angeles-based firm plans on using Pymetrics, a neuroscience-informed, game-based career assessment and recruiting platform, to assess potential law school candidates.

Founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists, Pymetrics assesses job seekers based on cognitive, social and emotional traits and then recommends candidates based on its own algorithm. The tool is already being used by companies such as Unilever, Accenture and LinkedIn to make their hiring decisions as effective, accurate and unbiased as possible.

Pymetrics’ assessment games include a money-exchange scenario, matching faces to proper emotions and filling virtual water balloons without them popping.

The promise of removing bias was a key selling point for O’Melveny, according to Darin Snyder, the firm’ diversity and inclusion partner and a member of its executive committee.

“The strategic goal is to increase the number of diverse attorneys in our recruiting pipeline,” Snyder said.

Recruiting on-campus has become both increasingly expensive and frustratingly limiting in terms of the candidates that firms can directly assess, Snyder said. And even though law schools are fielding more diverse classes, recruiting from only a handful of schools limits the number of diverse candidates law firms can select from, he said.

“We know there are a lot of talented people who don’t go to those schools, but for systemic reasons just aren’t easily captured by our process,” Snyder said.

“So our goal was to find a relatively inexpensive and yet effective way to greatly broaden that pipeline so that we could see more candidates and hopefully more diverse candidates and give them the opportunity to work at O’Melveny if we see there’s the right fit and real opportunity for all of us to succeed,” he added.

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Candidates from any law school in the country interested in a summer position at the firm will have access to a link online where they can play the game, which measures various traits such as attention, effort, planning, memory and flexibility.

Pymetrics will build a profile of the firm’s top-performing associates and then remove any potential gender, racial or ethnic bias. Applicants’ results are then compared against an O’Melveny-specific profile, created with Pymetrics’ help, to identify candidates with the strongest potential for success at the firm.

Starting in January, the new online assessment will be available to first-year law students anywhere interested in applying to the firm. Next month O’Melveny will begin hosting calls with career service teams at law schools where it currently does on-campus interviews, explaining that Pymetrics results will be used as an additional “blind” data point to be considered along with a student’s grades, resume and on-campus interviews.

“We’re intentionally not targeting any particular schools. We want to find those folks who we might otherwise miss in the recruiting process, who have all the indicia that they would succeed at O’Melveny and O’Melveny would be a good place for them to start their careers,” Snyder said. “We’re not prejudging where those folks might come from.”

In addition to its new recruitment strategy, O’Melveny also unveiled Monday that it is partnering with New York-based startup Werk to introduce an assessment tool that will specifically target attorney work-life balance.

Beginning in December O’Melveny attorneys, including its partners, can voluntary complete an online survey that will measure flex-work needs versus an employee’s flexibility wants.

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“We’re trying to get at what is going to make a difference in their adult lives, what is going make fulfilling their professional obligations in the context of everything going on in their life a lot easier,” Snyder said.

“Werk is designed to try and extract that information so that we can be much better at developing programs that allow people to successfully integrate their work and personal lives,” he added.

These kinds of efforts are essential for firms concerned about attorney retention, said Mary Ellen Connerty, O’Melveny’s director of diversity and engagement.

In the United States, 66 percent of O’Melveny’s attorneys are millennials, she noted. And what the firm hears from them is that they don’t necessarily want to work less, they just want to work differently, and that can vary from person to person, Connerty said. 

She said the firm plans to have the results of the Werk survey by January and then will conduct an analysis to help it adjust its current programs or design new flexibility offerings.

We have really tried in the past … trying to be innovative in exploring issues and solutions related to diversity and work-life integration,” Snyder said. “These are two programs that are tangible examples of the firm’s effort to be on the vanguard of what are really some of the most important issues facing the profession.”


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