Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Law firm recruitment, rescinded offers, etc.

Law firm recruitment begins with the recruitment of summer associates, many of whom are traditionally made offers for permanent employment starting the next year (a tradition that has been somewhat disrupted by the recession, which has led to both the withholding of offers and sometimes to their subsequent cancellation or postponement). How might this affect the norms, customs and rules by which recruiting is conducted? (The organization that tries to foster these norms and rules, through a statement of principles and standards, is NALP, formerly known as the National Association for Law Placement.)

Last year, the blog Above the Law urged students holding multiple summer offers to accept one quickly: Accept Your Offers: Stop Screwin' Around You Kids Screw Around Too Much.
"If you are a 2L sitting on multiple offers, could you please -- for the love of God -- accept one of them already, so the spots you don't want can be filled by other candidates? ... And it might be in your best interest as well. The career services office at U. Penn Law School sent around a letter to students today, urging them to make a decision:
We recommend that you do not wait until the expiration of the offer to render a decision... Wednesday, we learned that one of your 2L colleagues had their offer for employment rescinded before the expiration of the offer because the firm experienced a higher than usual acceptances from outstanding offers..."

This year, Above the Law suggests (tongue in cheek?) Accept Your Offers: All of Them.
"It seems to me that the "social compact" between firms and students has completely broken down. We've been living in a Hobbesian state of nature for almost a year now.
NALP tells students that they should not hold more than two offers open, or else. Or else what? As Jim Leipold, executive director of NALP, recently observed, "There are no NALP police."
As far as we know, NALP hasn't done anything to firms that have disrespected the 45-day "open offer" period. What are they going to do to students that accept more than two offers?
We asked NALP these questions directly. We asked why a student should be willing to follow the NALP guidelines when firms have flouted them with impunity during the recession. We asked why students should adhere to NALP guidelines when law school deans are saying that the firms will not.
We received no response. So now we're asking you:
Shouldn't an intelligent 2L accept every offer of summer employment he or she gets? If some firms revoke that offer quickly, so what? It's probably a firm you don't want to summer with anyway.
Once you've decided which firm to go with, you can politely decline the other offers you accepted..."

While I think that reputational concerns will prevent law students from accepting multiple offers, there is obviously a great deal of justified concern when law firms make offers and then rescind them (we're not just talking about summer offers now). Here is NALP's statement on rescinded offers (which begins "Please note: NALP's Principles and Standards do not condone rescinding offers. However, in recognition that rescission does occasionally occur, NALP presents this article with suggestions for ameliorating the situation. ")

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