Law Firms Turn to AI to Vet Recruits, Despite Bias Concerns

New York's Cadwalader passed on a law student looking for a summer job, until an artificial intelligence algorithm identified her as a suitable match.

"For whatever reason, she just wasn't evaluated that strongly when they were interviewing her," stated Pat Quinn, chair of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. "Yet she clearly has the goods."

Law Firms Turn to AI to Vet Recruits, Despite Bias Concerns

Law firms are struggling to diversify their workforces and expand their candidate pool. However, regulators are scrutinizing the technology to make sure it doesn't worsen biases. New York City's law will restrict the use of AI in hiring. It also requires that employers screen for bias in recruiting algorithms. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is looking at these tools.

Law Firms Turn to AI to Vet Recruits, Despite Bias Concerns

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Sullivan & Cromwell, Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Haynes and Boone are some of the firms that have adopted technology from Suited AI and used Cadwalader. Cadwalader was not able to speak with any of these firms.

According to Matt Spencer, chief executive officer at, a New York-based company, the technology allows employers to take into account traits that are often overlooked in traditional interview processes.

He said that the traits included attention to detail and logical reasoning.

Spencer stated that when people don't understand AI and choose to not use it, they are removing the most powerful tool available to eliminate long-established and ingrained biases in the hiring process.

Questionnaire Process
Suited's method works as follows: Attorneys working for a company and job candidates complete identical questionnaires. The technology then analyzes the questionnaire results to determine how job candidates compare with top performers in the firm.

Suited questionnaires were described by one job seeker as being a mix of a personality test, and the logical reasoning section of the Law School Admission Test.

An anonymous candidate requested anonymity to avoid being penalized by an employer. She said that different companies asked her to fill out the questionnaire at different stages of the hiring process. Some people used the questionnaire as a first step after they submitted an application. Others did it after several rounds of interviews.

Skadden requires that candidates be invited to a call back interview in order to take the test. This was stated by Christina Fox, associate director of attorney talent at Skadden, during a September webinar Suited hosted.

Fox stated that one of the initial hurdles was to get Skadden lawyers to answer questions for the algorithm to understand the traits shared by high-performing performers.

She said that there is a lot of skepticism about AI. To encourage participation, it took "a lot of one on one phone calls" as well as "an internal campaign".

'Thriving Industry'
According to , a 2019 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, roughly 40% of U.S. employers use Suited's tools to vet job applicants and 44% use them for identifying potential applicants.

HireVue is an artificial intelligence company based in South Jordan, Utah. It claims that it has clients that exceed 30% of Fortune 100 companies such as BP Plc and Delta Air Lines Inc.

This technology can be used when there are thousands of applicants for one position, according to Lindsey Zuloaga (HireVue's chief Data Scientist).

Niloy Ray, a Littler Mendelson lawyer from Minneapolis, stated that clients who use these tools claim they increase diversity and the number of candidates being considered for jobs.

Ray stated that these tools are experiencing a boom. It's a thriving business.

Law firms are particularly interested in one of the benefits, which is improving workforce diversity.

Skadden chose Suited's product due to limited on-campus opportunities. Fox stated that he also wanted to "continue expanding the candidate pool", especially for students of color.

According to data from the National Association for Law Placement, attorneys of color account for 28% of all law firm associates. Just 11% of law firms partners were people of colour last year, while 4% were women of colors.

Bias Replication?

The tools are being scrutinized by federal regulators and legislators. For example, they question whether the tools are calibrated to reflect what a company's workforce should look like rather than what it should.

Christine Webber, a partner in Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and a representative of employees in discrimination cases, stated that machine learning can reproduce the same biases as human decision-makers.