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Brad Butwin: Using AI to Expand Your Talent Pool

As the managing partners and general counsel of top law firms and corporate legal departments, LCLD Members are some of the most powerful legal leaders in the United States. But some of our Members go above and beyond in applying their leadership to advance diversity and inclusion at their organizations and in the broader legal profession. These individuals exemplify LCLD's mission to make the legal profession as diverse as the nation it serves. 

LCLD asked Brad Butwin, Chair of O'Melveny & Myers LLP, to share one of the most innovative, impactful ways his organization is advancing inclusion.  

1. Provide a brief summary of your initiative. 

During on-campus interviews in August of 2018, we met with over 1,300 students. In sessions of just 20-30 minutes, students tried to make a great impression while we tried to make great selections. It’s a short time to accurately assess potential. It’s also a time when we’re most vulnerable to defaulting to implicit biases. 

Pymetrics is designed to address these challenges. A revolutionary software tool, it uses machine-learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to help organizations create a more effective, accurate, and unbiased recruitment process. Using a series of animated online games, pymetrics assesses cognitive, social, and emotional traits and then algorithmically recommends the best-suited candidates for an organization.  

We began by inviting our high-performing associates to play the pymetrics games, which allowed us to construct a data-based model for the successful O’Melveny associate. Pymetrics then employed statistical methods to actively remove bias and validate the model to ensure the selection procedure promotes fairness rather than perpetuates barriers. 

Because candidates move through the games anonymously, the algorithm does not use demographic information to assess potential success. Pymetrics serves as a “blind” data point to be considered along with resumes, grades, and on-campus or phone interviews. 

The 2019 recruiting season will be the first time that we have results from the pymetrics games available. This additional data point will offer new information about candidates’ potential for success at O’Melveny while helping to override the implicit biases that naturally seep into interviews and resume review. By embracing this tool, we will increase the number of diverse students in our candidate pool (and the number of candidates generally) who show the potential to succeed at O’Melveny.

2. What inspired you to take action on this element of D&I? 

Despite our best efforts, we were not satisfied with the number of diverse candidates we were seeing. We wanted to introduce something completely new into the on-campus interview process that could significantly increase that number.  

Pymetrics will enhance the firm’s ability to assess candidates based on their potential, not pedigree. We will encourage our hiring committees to pay close attention to strong pymetrics scores from all candidates, but particularly diverse candidates. As a result, we expect to increase the number of offers we make to diverse candidates. 

We also wanted to expand our reach. Because anyone with a computer can tap into the pymetrics platform, it provides a new way for us to reach students at any law school, further broadening our access to diverse candidates.

3. What makes your efforts innovative and different? 

O’Melveny is the first law firm to introduce a tool like pymetrics. Our traditional methods of recruiting alone were creating some barriers to diverse candidates. Adding pymetrics will be game-changing.  

Tools like pymetrics are common in the corporate world, where some of our clients use them to great success. We saw no reason pymetrics couldn’t do the same at our firm.

4. Are there lessons you learned? Are there things you would do differently? 

Introducing something as different as pymetrics into a recruiting process as staid as the legal profession’s is challenging. It required a great deal of socialization—both inside and outside the firm. You have to allow for time to move through that process, respond to feedback, and get as many parties on board as possible. It also required a very strong partnership between O’Melveny and pymetrics.

Pymetrics has already changed how members of the O’Melveny community think and talk about diversity. Considering, adopting, and then rolling out pymetrics led to dozens of important conversations about diversity with different groups of stakeholders. We had meaningful, substantive conversations with partners, associates, hiring committees, law schools, and law students. These conversations created a far broader understanding of the multi-faceted challenges posed by diversity and the recruiting process. 

If we could go back, the only thing we would have done differently is to implement pymetrics sooner!  

5. Has there been a ripple effect for your majority attorneys?

Our majority attorneys are part of the reason we took this step. They have been vocal about wanting the firm to do more—something different—that would significantly move the needle on our diverse hires. They have also helped implement pymetrics by participating in pilots, speaking with career services personnel at law schools, and introducing the concepts to law students. They are proud that we took such a bold step. 

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