In the News ABA Journal

Talking Heads

Her face is focused and intent, and her measured, authoritative tone conveys conviction. Kirkland & Ellis is a good place for female attorneys, Rebekah R. Eubanks says. 

"I really have not felt like being a woman at Kirkland has been a barrier," says the fourth-year corporate associate. "Kirkland is just a very fair place. If you are willing to make the client contact, take on the responsibility, you are rewarded."

For months, Eubanks has been praising the Chicago-based firm to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of law students. But most of the would-be associates who have watched her talk about the firm have never seen Eubanks in person.  Her testimonial is videotaped. Law students view it on the firm's innovative site,, which, along with the traditional roster of firm information, offers vignettes on associate life by a dozen young attorneys. Experts say the site's marriage of unscripted videotaped comments with Internet technology is an unusual associate-recruiting tactic--for now.  Soon, some predict, it will be common-place for law firm Web sites to feature talking head testimonials by attorneys and their clients to attract even more attorneys and clients.

Need for Speed

Such sites will become the norm once Web users get the high-speed Internet connections that make it easy to view such material, says Matthew Mandell, a New York City-based Web designer for law firms. To access the testimonials, the user needs software that will accept streaming video.

Kirkland decided to develop its new site last year after hearing from students that the old version was unimpressive, says John Donley, partner in charge of its Chicago associate recruiting. The firm hired Chicago-based Hubbard One, which suggested associate testimonials.

Because the testimonials appeal directly to the students, "They seemed like a good way to cut out the middleman," says Donley. "It's really customized to get information to people who are interested in the firm--without a lot of spin in it."

Eubanks says the video clip accurately portrays her views. "I tell prospective candidates honestly what I feel about the firm."  Sari Zimmerman, career services director at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, says she believes most students there haven't yet encountered Web site testimonials. But, she says, students like the videotaped presentations on CD ROMs that law firms routinely provide to her office as a recruiting tool. "So incorporating it into the Web site seems a logical next step."  Some are skeptical, however. Carole Levitt, president of Internet for Lawyers, a Los Angeles consulting firm, believes clients primarily want to see articles, forms and newsletters, not attorney testimonials. "We advise our clients not to do a lot of bells and whistles on their Web sites," says Levitt.

And the slowing economy may dampen the trend, says Phil J. Shuey, chair of the New Media and Internet Board of the ABA Law Practice Management Section and a past section chair. While the booming legal market encouraged aggressive recruiting in recent years, wooing prospective associates may now become less of a priority, he says.

Nevertheless, the idea is catching on. Chicago-based Altheimer & Gray had video testimonials on its site before Kirkland & Ellis did, albeit in a less ambitious format. And Morgan, Lewis & Bockius is thinking about upgrading its current audio testimonials to video, says New York City partner Gregory S. Shatan, who is in charge of the firm's Web site.

"Right now, with only about 10 percent of Internet access being high speed, it doesn't seem like a good time to move to video yet," Shatan says. "But it's something we're likely to do eventually."

Similarly, Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison offers videotaped client testimonials on its Web site, which presents written attorney testimonials aimed at law students. The firm thought viewers in a corporate setting were more likely to have high-speed Internet connections, while some students, "we felt, wouldn't have the bandwidth and wouldn't have the patience to download the necessary software," says David Geyer, marketing director of the San Francisco-based firm.

What's next for law firm Web sites? Hubbard One vice president Kent M. Zimmermann points to customized content that would recognize each user as he or she calls the site up and present individualized material. For example, when an airline's general counsel logs on, the site would immediately identify the person as a potential client and post airline-related material and attorney profiles on its home page.

Zimmermann doesn't know of any firm with a customized-content Web site. But some are in development, he says. "This is really, I think, the way sites of the large law firms are going to go."

c The American Bar Association 
Reprinted by permission of the ABA Journal