October 8, 2020
Varnum LLP is a full-service business law firm with eight offices across Michigan and a recently opened location in Naples, Florida. Part of the firm’s normal recruiting operations includes a robust summer associate program that involves visiting law schools across the Midwest. In previous years, Varnum would meet with second-year law students in-person, either on campus or at job fairs facilitated by specialty bar associations. However, in early 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, many schools canceled these events, moving to a pass/fail grading system and postponing the summer associate recruiting from Summer 2020 to Winter 2021.
Recognizing the impact this change could have on the firm’s hiring practices, Katie M. Hoekstra, Director of Recruiting and Professional Development for Varnum, surveyed the management team, including practice team leaders and governing committees, to put forward a strategic action plan in light of market conditions. These discussions resulted in the firm proceeding with recruiting efforts based on leadership’s confidence in the future and the value Varnum places on its junior associate pipeline. According to Hoekstra, “Varnum saw this as an opportunity to set ourselves apart from the competition and have an early chance to recruit candidates, creating a competitive advantage by interviewing months earlier than peer firms.” To facilitate the shift, Varnum sought a solution that would allow the firm to screen candidates while saving time, money and resources.
Responsible for attorney recruiting and retention efforts across all of Varnum’s offices, Hoekstra learned about Wedge from one of the firm’s attorneys who had experience with the solution. She said what ultimately made the decision was the simplicity and accessibility of the platform, sharing, “I was able to fully configure our Wedge video interview and launch it very quickly.”
Given pandemic conditions, Wedge gave the firm the ability to screen candidates via video profiles, enabling students to answer the interview questions and show off their personality at the same time. Hoekstra refers to Wedge as “a window into the screening process,” noting that this is something usually only the on-campus interviewers get to see. With Wedge, the firm has streamlined this step, helping the hiring team pre-screen the videos and recommend the strongest profiles for review.
Hoekstra says that the move to Wedge positioned Varnum as a leader in the legal field for its use of the software. With on-campus recruiting, attorneys would interview 15-20 students at each school in the span of eight hours and incur a substantial amount of travel time for the first phase of recruiting efforts, which typically yields three to four follow-up interviews at Varnum’s offices. Leveraging Wedge, Varnum saved more than 100 hours of billable time, equating to tens of thousands of dollars of gained productivity.
Since its pivot to Wedge, Varnum has reached a higher number of candidates at more schools at an earlier point in the process than in previous years, supporting the firm’s goals of standing apart from the competition while saving time, money and resources.