Two City firms launch sci-fi recruitment tool in bid to boost diversity

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By Judge John Hack on

Hogan Lovells and Baker & McKenzie rush to front line of technology-assisted scheme to make City legal practice more representative of wider society


Two leading City of London law firms are wheeling in science fiction-style technology in a bid to boost the diversity profile of their trainee recruits.

The London office of transatlantic practice Hogan Lovells and global franchise Baker & McKenzie are claiming to be the first to sign up to a groundbreaking “contextual recruitment tool”.

According to the firms — which announced a deal yesterday with London-based diversity recruitment consultancy Rare — the tool works “by hardwiring social mobility metrics into the firms’ existing graduate recruitment applicant tracking systems”.

The recruitment specialists reckon that will enable HogLovs and Bakers “to take the economic background and personal circumstances of a candidate into account for the first time”.

It all sounds a bit 1984 or Space Odyssey HAL 9000. But those with their fingers on the knobs maintain that this is benign technology that will potentially lay to rest persistent criticism that, when hiring, City firms target Oxbridge-educated, white, middle-class males.

In a statement, the boffins at Rare maintained that the magic software program will allow the two firms to assess candidates’ academic performances against the overall performances of their schools.

That process, say the experts, will provide “the context as to how that set of grades was achieved; something which conventional assessment systems are currently unable to do. By contextualising the performance of individual applicants, employers will be able to identify those stand-out candidates regardless of their background”.

Frankly, anyone who can understand that explanation probably deserves to leapfrog trainee and associate levels and be fast-tracked straight into the partnership.

Rare’s boffin-in-chief, managing director Raph Mokades, attempted to explain:

“The way people present their talents superficially in print or on paper is only part of the answer to the question of how you measure how good they are.

“For instance, someone who gets AAA at A-level from a very high performing school may be underperforming relative to the average attainment at that institution, whereas someone who gets AAA at A-level from a school where the average is DDE, whose parents may not have attended university, and who lives in a deprived postcode, is outstanding – even if he or she does not have glistening work experience and extra curricular activities.”

In a joint statement yesterday, HogLovs and Baker McK said they would fully integrate the system for the 2015-16 graduate recruitment season.

Tom Astle, Hogan Lovells’ graduate recruitment partner, described the technology as a “quantum leap in objective and reliable methods of screening applications, enabling those from less privileged backgrounds to shine through”.

Contextual data, he continued, would allow the firm to have a “greater understanding of the challenges some candidates have faced and overcome. This will give candidates the confidence that they have been selected on their merits by organisations that recognise their achievements in context and are keen to give them every opportunity to demonstrate their potential”.

Sarah Gregory, Baker & McKenzie’s diversity and inclusion partner, was equally effusive:

“By integrating contextual recruitment into our own graduate application processes we will be setting a new benchmark for social mobility.”