For Hatch, who attended Penn State University as an undergrad, frustration mounted when, time and again, many of her interviewers wanted to discuss football coach Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions, not her legal qualifications or the master's degree in bioethics she was pursuing. But despite rampant frustration, industry change has been slow to come, she supposes, because of the risk associated with breaking new ground. "If everyone's doing the same thing and you're doing something different, it could go very well, and it could also not go well at all," Hatch says. "You don't want to sacrifice a whole class by taking a gamble."
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Since implementing the new model, Pepper's Subak has fielded questions, he says, both from lawyers inside his firm and out about the new additions—though he's not sure if there's been any interest in replicating it elsewhere. This type of attention to revamped interviewing methods is increasingly common, according to Heather Frattone, associate dean of Career Planning & Professionalism at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
"I think the market's beginning to shift on this," Frattone says. "Firms will do anything from a model like Pepper's, which is very specific, to broader behavioral interviewing—questions like, 'Tell me a time when you were able to successfully persuade a group of people to see things your way,'—to get at specific competencies and skills they're looking for. We saw more employers last year do behavioral interviewing, and I think we'll see even more employers this year."
Regardless of whether Pepper's model is picked up by other organizations, some of the firm's previous summer associates are hopeful that future law students will have a chance to showcase their qualifications in evolving interview models similar—if not identical—to Pepper's.
"I would think that sometimes it really takes one firm to start, and to show other firms that it can be done, you don't turn off applicants, and that, in fact, you end up with a superior group of summer associates," says Hatch, who will soon start as a junior associate at Pepper Hamilton. "I think that once other firms start recognizing what Pepper is doing and the results that it's getting, they [will] be much less hesitant to think outside the box."
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