[caption id="attachment_219721" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Richards, Layton & Finger, the state's largest law firm, has expanded its recruitment efforts in new areas and diverse venues. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
WILMINGTON — Roughly a decade ago, Richards Layton and Finger had a track record of recruiting at 15 to 20 universities and job fairs across the country. This year, Marcos Ramos, director of the firm’s bankruptcy group, put that number at 32 university visits and recruiting events nationally. Locations expand beyond Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania to universities like George Mason University, Wake Forest University as well as events like the Sunbelt Diversity Job Fair in the Florida-Georgia area.“Our footprint today is much larger, and much more spread out. We’ve wanted to be very purposeful, intentional in looking at what we were doing and making changes,” said Ramos, who sits on the firm’s hiring committee. “We were really giving ourselves a goal: to give ourselves the best opportunity to find the best talent for us.”Richards, Layton & Finger is Delaware’s largest firm and is among the oldest, as it was founded in 1899. With a long history comes an established foundation for hiring practices. Traditionally for new talent, law firms like Richards, Layton & Finger interview law students before their second year of law school for a 2L associate position. Those positions are eight- to 10-week summer jobs that lead to full-time offers once the student graduates the following year. “Hiring is a critical aspect of our firm, not only for the present but for the future. Who you bring in as an attorney really dictates what the firm will be like in 10, 20 years down the line,” Ramos said. “So we’re looking for the most exceptional talent possible… and part of expanding the footprint is to make sure that we’re seeing more people and different candidates than when our footprint was smaller.”While Richards, Layton and Finger’s scope is national, Delaware’s quiet reputation in the legal arena does present challenges in courting candidates - particularly if those prospective hires hail from California.Ramos himself is a Baltimore native and worked at a national firm in New York and later Los Angeles, and only when he was looking to move closer to his family did he become familiar with the First State and its intricate relationship with corporate law. But he did know of the firm’s reputation and place in corporate law’s history with landmark cases.“It’s one of the fundamental challenges of the professional community, and there’s no changing from it. It may be that people of a certain age may not think of Delaware as a place to commit themselves at that point in their lives,” he said. “It’s very much a challenge for the legal employers here.”From the firm’s perspective, the solution is to be proactive. Richards, Layton and Finger immediate past president Doneene Damon, spent much of her tenure going to law schools and sitting on panel discussions to highlight Delaware’s distinctive place in law. Richards, Layton and Finger boast of playing a critical role in drafting and amending state business laws, but it’s not a stretch to say other major Delaware firms have the same opportunities.Delaware’s small size could also present unique opportunities for lawyers to evolve professionally and advance—and enact change. A robust community of professional associations like the Delaware Barristers Association, the Delaware Hispanic Bar Association and South Asian Bar Association of Delaware has developed and galvanized the local community and opened the door for potential career paths.“Those organizations are doing very instrumental work, and in doing so, it’s a very different bar today that existed 10 years ago,” Ramos said.Inside Richards, Layton and Finger, the firm has made structural changes to support more diversity within its walls and the courtroom. In 2020, the firm created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, chaired by Ramos, and also established past president Doneene Damon as the first chief diversity officer.In terms of continuing to build a pipeline, the firm brought back the 1L program—geared for law students between the first and second year and designed for more exposure—in 2020. A new clerkship program was created to help draw more students to the state and work with Delaware’s Superior Court, Bankruptcy Court and Court of Chancery. Richards, Layton and Finger recently partnered with TeenSHARP on externships in fields supporting the firm, like accounting, IT and more.“For many of us in the community, we’ve been engaged in this area for decades. We welcome the momentum and individually, we continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Ramos said.
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