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'Law Firms Hope Tech Will Stop Bias In Grad Recruitment' - Australian Financial Review

By Alan J. McDonald


Will blind CVs harm the recruitment process for law firms? McDonald Murholme Managing Director Alan McDonald comments that this process could distort results rather than assist the recruitment process.

See below article for further details.

Law firms hope tech will stop bias in grad recruitment

Not a top student from one of the best law schools? Technology may get you a legal job.

Allens is introducing an application by British company Rare that provides broader information about job candidates.

Called a contextual recruitment system, the program analyses information beyond traditional curriculum vitae criteria including academic records, university and work experience and extra-curricular activities to include a candidate’s socio-economic background, education experience, and performance.

The 27 UK firms using the system, including Allens alliance partner Linklaters, are statistically twice as likely as before to hire people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Other major firms such as Clayton Utz are relaunching their graduate programs and King & Wood Mallesons uses “blind” assessment techniques to remove bias from graduate recruitment.

Highly competitive

Law schools are revamping their curriculums in line with employer demands.

Allens partner Miriam Stiel said any tool that helped the firm to capture the widest pool of talent in a highly competitive graduate market made business sense.

It provided opportunities for graduates who might not previously have been given a chance at a big firm, Ms Stiel said.

“We need people who have strong intellectual grounding. That doesn’t necessarily always mean the person with the highest marks. The circumstances in which a person learns can have an impact,” Ms Stiel said.

London-based Rare managing director Raphael Mokades said pursuing greater diversity meant firms were more reflective of society and, importantly, their clients’ businesses. It also gave firms more information to monitor their hiring and diversity practices.

Mr Mokades said the system, which was launched in the UK a year ago, was already changing how firms there operate.

“Firms are also competing more on diversity and introducing other initiatives to attract and develop under-privileged candidates,” Mr Mokades said.

Hall & Wilcox is among organisations involved in a Victorian government pilot program to reduce unconscious bias in recruiting through “blind CV” processes.

Unconscious bias

“The pilot will assist us in overcoming unconscious bias that may have been influencing our recruitment decisions and to promote gender, cultural and socio-economic diversity,” Hall & Wilcox partner Anastasia Coutsouvelis said.

The managing director of employment firm McDonald Murholme, Alan McDonald, was wary of blind CV techniques and contextual recruitment systems. He said they could distort results rather than assist recruitment based on genuine merit.

Mr McDonald said they did not overcome inevitable biases that could creep in once an individual’s personal details were discovered later in the recruitment process.

“It can also be harmful to prospective applicants,” he said. “You need non-lawyer human resources professionals heading the recruitment process who can actively search for the qualities in candidates that fit with the organisation’s culture.”

Assistant professor of law at Bond University Kate Galloway said firms and other employers of legal graduates were driving change in legal education.

The university has a new legal education research centre that trains teachers to help their law students become better lawyers.

“It is an equalising strategy that means students from diverse backgrounds are exposed to the realities of legal practice and can showcase a range of skills to employers than simply the ability to pass exams,” she said. “This includes client interviewing, client advocacy, mooting, drafting, critical and creative thinking, and communication.”

Reference: ‘Law firms hope tech will stop bias in grad recruitment’, Australian Financial Review, 26th May 2016.