Martin's Expertise Behind Algorithm for New Online Legal Hiring Service, JD Match, Pairing Students and Employers

The expertise of Professor Andrew Martin, director of the law school’s Center for Empirical Research in the Law  (CERL), is behind a new online service designed to “match” law students with potential employers. JD Match, the brainchild of law firm consultants Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton, uses a “proprietary algorithm” written by Martin and Kevin Quinn, a frequent research collaborator of Martin.

JD Match is loosely based on a medical school model, which is operated by the National Residency Matching Program and links medical students to available residency opportunities annually on Match Day. Given today’s highly selective job market in legal employment and the feedback they had been receiving as consultants to law firms, MacEwen and Stanton decided to approach Martin and Quinn about building an algorithm to simplify the recruitment process for both law students and legal employers.

JD Match complements the OCI process, which in the current employment market resembles a crazy dance,” says Martin, who stressed that the project is part of his new consulting firm, Principia Empirica LLC, and completely separate from his work with CERL and Washington University.

However, Martin believes JD Match, which launched today (May 3), could add value to the law school. “I can say with confidence that JD Match will open doors to Washington University law students,” he says.  

Specifically, JD Match draws from an online database in which law students numerically rank employers, and legal employers rank the participating law students in which they are interested. Based on the number of available positions at the firm, the system then runs through a series of sophisticated choices to “match” a given law student with a given firm based on order of preference.

Since the “match” is non-binding, JD Match will run several times during the fall recruitment season to better assist in the placement process. Drawn from the rules created in the algorithm, the system will always select the most preferential option. Once law students sign up, answer a series of questions, and pay the $99 annual fee, they will remain in the system throughout the recruitment season. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to upload their resumes for consideration by various firms.

Participating law firms also will pay a fee and then enter their selection criteria. The firms will be able to rank students they are interested in employing based their knowledge of the students from more traditional formats, such as interviews and resumes. Law schools will be able to join the service at no cost, and if the students give their consent, schools may be able to use JD Match to track job placements.

An additional component, JD Recommends can be accessed by law firms at the end of the hiring cycle to consider students they might not previously have ranked, but who are now being “recommended” by the algorithm as strong candidates that meet their criteria.

MacEwen and Stanton hope eventually to use the data from the system for research on the legal employment market and what qualities make successful lawyers. As a result, Martin and Quinn have advised them on what type of data they may also wish to collect from students and firms for future research. “Down the road, the analysis of these data could be a very valuable source of information, especially given the cost it takes to bring a junior associate up to speed,” Martin says.

Martin, who specializes in political methodology and social scientific research for lawyers, is an expert on the politics of the U.S. Supreme Court and judicial decision-making. In addition to his role as director of CERL, Martin serves as chair of the Department of Political Science in Arts & Sciences, professor of political science, and professor of law.

Martin and Quinn, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, are the co-authors of numerous articles based on empirical research. Among their joint empirical projects, they created the Martin-Quinn Scores , which measure the relative location of U.S. Supreme Court justices on an ideological continuum. MacEwen is the author of the popular blog, Adam Smith, Esq., which offers insights into the business of large law firms. His consulting business with Stanton also goes by the same name.

When asked specifically about Martin's contributions, both MacEwen, president of JDMatch LLC, and Stanton, CEO of JDMatch LLC, stress that he has brought invaluable expertise to the innovative project.

“Nothing you have ever done before can prepare you for the challenges, vicissitudes, and thrills of launching a startup venture,” says MacEwen. “And one thing you learn very quickly is who’s cut out to be a team member and who’s not. Andrew has repeatedly come up with contributions to the business above and beyond what we engaged him to do—and has done so astutely and with great good humor. You can’t ask for more.”

Stanton adds: “Andrew has been the consummate professional to work with—businesslike, candid, thoughtful, and always displaying a nuanced appreciation for the commercial and marketplace challenges facing our new venture. And while he’s been far more than merely a statistical or computer expert, he clearly has true gifts in that regard as well. We have plenty on our minds launching a new and untried venture, but whether the matching algorithm will work as planned is not a worry.”

Martin says he has enjoyed being involved in the project, which as a start-up commercial enterprise is different from his usual work at the university—teaching, conducting research, publishing his scholarship, and managing people. Additionally, while most of his projects at CERL involve data collection, analysis, and then dissemination of results, his portion of JD Match has been strictly a complex modeling problem.

“It is something of a departure for me, but Bruce and Janet are very smart and super energetic—and they were very persuasive,” Martin recalls. “It has been really interesting to be involved in a start-up and watch it grow from the idea to the design to being ready for the market.”