Comparing different firm programs

Q: I am interested in applying to staff attorney programs at New York firms but am not sure how to go about doing so since it is not always clear which firms have them. I have also heard that most staff attorney positions are filled by in house referrals. Is there anything you can tell me that could demystify the recruiting/hiring practices for these positions as well as how to go about comparing the different firm programs. Also, are these positions as dead end as many people surmise?