Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unraveling of law firm interviews of 2nd year students

Catherine Rampell has an informative article about The Other Law School Arms Race.  The date at which large law firms interview 2nd year law students (for summer associate positions that are the entry path to permanent positions after graduation) has moved earlier, to the summer before the second year begins.

"Speaking of the career paths for new lawyers, we’ve noted before that the sour legal job market has encouraged law schools to find creative ways to make their students look more attractive to employers, at least when compared with students from other schools. Intentional grade inflation is one particularly controversial tool schools have been using.

"But the arms race has found another battlefield as well: on-campus interview week.At most top schools, early in the second year of law school, dozens of law firms visit campus to conduct a round-robin of job interviews with students. These interviews are the first step to a summer associate job after the second year, and oftentimes a permanent job offer after graduation following the third year of school.

"The exact timing of this “on-campus interview week” has traditionally varied by school, and from firm to firm, thereby allowing different firms to send recruiters to Harvard one week, Columbia the next, Chicago the following week, and so on.

"But with the job market so tight, last year schools began worrying that if law firms visited them later in the fall, the few job offers available would already be gone. So many top schools bumped up their on-campus interview weeks from October to September to finally August, before the school year even starts, because they wanted their students to have a chance to claim a job slot before their counterparts at other schools did."
"In February the organization that creates guidelines for legal recruiting process, NALP, released new rules about how long job offers could stay open, a measure intended to curb this interviewing arms race. But the new guidelines have not so far inspired any coordinated new schedule for interviewing process. "
The article closes with a news release from Northwestern: Northwestern Law, Jones Day Agree to On-Campus Interviewing in September

"CHICAGO --- Northwestern University School of Law and the global law firm Jones Day announced today July 26 that the firm will conduct its on-campus interviews for 2011 summer associates in September instead of during the law school's official on-campus interviewing (OCI) program, which begins Aug. 11. In a move benefiting both students and law firms, Jones Day will conduct interviews on behalf of its 14 U.S. offices on Monday, Sept. 13.

"Jones Day joins Northwestern Law in the belief that the current recruitment system has created a competitive race among law schools and law firms to conduct on-campus interviews earlier. The result is an inefficient system that does not serve employers or student applicants well, according to the law school and law firm.

"The current system discourages the efforts of law firms to learn about all the competencies (over and above grades) of potential associates," according to David Van Zandt, dean, Northwestern Law. "It also requires firms to make employment decisions and predictions about their hiring needs too far in advance of permanent start dates.

"The compression of summer associate interviews in August is also problematic for students since it constrains their time to make sensible decisions about with whom to interview, to adjust interviewing techniques based on what they learn during the process, or to make sound decisions about offers of employment," said Van Zandt. "It contributes to a frequent lack of fit between graduates and the law firms, which inevitably leads to higher attrition levels for the firms."

"Taking this step with Northwestern will help show that a more balanced, less frenzied approach to on-campus recruiting is not only still possible, but indeed desirable for all concerned -- students, law schools and law firms," said Greg Shumaker, firmwide hiring partner at Jones Day.

HT: Eric Budish

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