The 100 Best Employers

From over 400 organizations surveyed, five law firms, down one from last year and with most of the survivors heading down the list, made Fortune magazine’s 2007 list of the best 100 employers to work for: Alston & Bird, Arnold & Porter, Nixon Peabody, Perkins Coie and Bingham McCutchen, with Morrison & Foerster having dropped off.

The list is based on two criteria: an evaluation of the policies and culture of each organization, and the opinions of the employees, which is given more weight. Two-thirds of the total score comes from responses to a 57-question survey, on attitudes towards management, job satisfaction, and camaraderie, sent to at least 400 employees from each company. The remaining one-third of the score is based on demographic makeup, pay and benefits programs, and culture.

It’s a tough competition, with No. 1-rated Google providing employees free gourmet meals, a swimming spa and free doctors on site.

But apart from offering outsized bennies, there are some lessons Google may be able to offer us legals.

Hiring for the Right Reasons

Google has doubled the number of employees in each of the last three years, and now with 10,000 employees, expects to double in size again this year, resulting in about 200 hires a week. It also enjoys an attrition rate of 4%, low by Silicon Valley standards. Historically, much like law firms, Google has relied on grade requirements and interviews to make hiring decisions. The challenge is to continue to find valuable employees at such an astounding rate of growth.

A recent review of over 2 million data points made it clear that Google’s hiring criteria were not necessarily correlated with success at the company. So Google has revamped its hiring process, using assessments of existing personnel to produce a more quantitative measurement of success in terms of skills, intelligence, personality and integrity. All incoming applicants will now take a personal survey, which Google is already finding produces better matches for its work and culture.

Lessons for Law Firms

Law firms with spiraling growth requirements are competing to hire from the same number of law graduates with good grades from the same number of top-rung law schools as 20 years ago. The lesson from Google, the best company to work for and possibly the hiringest company as well, is that grades and an interview don’t do it anymore. Now is the time to identify your real indicators of success and hire candidates with those.