Wednesday, July 16, 2008, 8:52 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Choate Hall & Stewart is an old-line Boston law firm whose innovative use of broadband video shows how out-of-the box thinking can shake up the competitive dynamics of a very traditional industry.
As Betsy Huntley, Choate's Director of Marketing explained to me, a key audience for Choate (and indeed all major firms) are top law students who are heavily recruited for summer and full-time associate employment. Year in and year out successful recruiting is key to every firm's existence.
Last year, Choate's interactive firm, Greenfield Belser, pointed out that the firm's young recruits were increasingly immersed in the YouTube/Facebook culture, so one way Choate could connect better with them and separate itself from its competitors was by doing something out-of-the box, like offering video.
To put the video idea in perspective, Betsy noted that to their knowledge no other law firm had used video as a recruiting tool (nor has any still). Such an initiative would be groundbreaking, and risky. As a rule, most law firms do not embrace risk or even the appearance of it. Being perceived as ultra responsible custodians of their clients' interests is far more important than looking like a web 2.0 rock star.
Choate's partners debated the video concept intensively, ultimately deciding to go forward. Then, like Hollywood executives, Choate needed to weigh programming ideas, scripts, formats and the like. Scrambling against recruiting deadlines, the impressive results can be seen in the "Careers" section of their web site.
You'll notice first that playing in the center window are several clever spoofs of the classic "Mac vs. PC" ads (complete with reminiscent music), featuring a Choate "associate" and an associate at "Megafirm." In addition, in the right hand navigation are a collection of "Red Chair" interviews where Associates share something about themselves, adding a distinctive personal feel to the site. There are lots of other talking head interviews, humorous skits and vintage footage. Betsy said the guiding philosophy was "though we take our work and clients seriously, we try not to take ourselves too seriously."
The videos have been a huge success for the firm, as Betsy noted they "streamlined every point in the recruiting process" starting with improved candidate self-selection, more productive, in-depth interviews, a higher acceptance rate on offers made and a higher quality of new hires. All recruits said they'd seen the videos and reacted positively. They especially appreciated seeing their friends candidly discussing their experiences.
I give Choate a lot of credit. Embracing video was a risky bet that undoubtedly felt like very foreign territory for the firm. Yet its experience demonstrates how video newcomers can shake up their industries and distinguish themselves from their competition. Further, it also reinforces the notion that video professionals have a huge new pool of clients to work with. As video becomes a core part of more organizations' communications efforts, video experts are going to be in higher and higher demand.
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