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Data-driven tool shakes up clerkship application process

International firm Allens has introduced a new process to choose clerks based on an algorithm designed to “level the playing field” for applicants.

user iconMelissa Coade 16 June 2016 Corporate Counsel
Data-driven tool shakes up clerkship application process
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Law students vying for a coveted position in the firm’s clerkship program will be assessed by a “screen-in tool” developed by recruitment company Rare.

The contextual recruiting system (CRS) draws on information provided by candidates and mines demographic and educational data to evaluate a candidate’s social, economic and human capital.

Allens partner Miriam Stiel, who is responsible for graduate recruitment in Sydney, suggested the program would help the firm harness the best talent in a competitive climate.


“When you get so many applications for a relatively small number of positions there’s always a risk that someone will slip through the cracks,” she said.

“Graduate recruitment is highly competitive and having a sophisticated tool that allows our recruitment teams to see candidates on a level playing field will help ensure Allens continues to recruit the brightest and most promising law graduates.”

The tool gives the firm additional context around candidates to provide a more nuanced picture, and to make it possible to compare candidates from different backgrounds, she suggested.

“When you’re comparing two applications, but they’re actually not equal or you don’t have the full context so you’re not examining them with as holistic approach as possible, there is a group of candidates who may go on to have really significant successes in future and just won’t get picked up in that evaluation,” Ms Stiel said.

While Ms Stiel confirmed the firm would continue to take into account other criteria – including work experience, extra-curricular activities, teamwork, leadership, grades, psychometric testing and personal presentation and interview – she suggested the new approach would help the firm hire students who “reflect the full diversity of Australian society and our clients”.

Although finding the right fit was important for the next crop of law clerks, Ms Stiel stressed that the ideal Allens candidate did not fit any one particular mold.

“People who bring really different insights to things based on their own personal experiences are something that Allens really values,” she said.

From October last year a team of tech heads and data analysts have been adapting the model used by businesses across the UK to the Australian context.

Through a series of questions that candidates answer at the time of application, the algorithm works through binary set of ‘yes/no’ questions. The evaluation is also triggered by other more nuanced demographic, geographic and educational data points.

Rare managing director Raphael Mokades said the tool offers an opportunity to even the playing field when selecting people for interview.

“We’re trying to look at someone’s achievement in context. Lack of diversity is not just about candidates but also about the institutions,” he said.

“Rare started to look at who gets to the interview stage and why and we found that regardless of academic performance, there’s a pretty clear correlation, at least in England, between kids with the most opportunity and those who get into interview and those who don’t,” Mr Mokades added.

He believes the tool can help address the gap between students who are given a wealth of opportunities and those who have been at a disadvantage.

“The reason is completely obvious and understandable – because if you grasp opportunity, it makes you a better candidate because you’ve done more stuff,” he said.

“The issue is though, if you’re born into a different situation, you don’t get to enjoy the same opportunity. You may never have had the ability to do some of those things and that may not be a reflection of how good you are, it may just be a reflection of your life chances.”

Retired High Court Judge the Hon Michael Kirby (pictured) launched the tool at Allens this week.