Summer Associate Offers In January? NALP Report Recommends Changes in Recruiting At Law Schools Friday, January 8th, 2010

Ever wonder about the “logic” behind incoming 2L law students leaving their summer vacations in mid-August, heading back to campus, wearing their nicest business suits, to join the frenzied fray that is known as “on-campus interviewing (OCI)?”

Whether you look at it from the point of view of the students pressured to participate and decide early before fully considering the full range of employment options, the law firms trying to assess and anticipate future hiring needs two years in advance or the law schools pressured to schedule OCI just as the semester is starting, there’s considerable dissatisfaction with the timing guidelines for law firm recruiting. Ashby Jones, Lead Writer for the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, observed in a recent Law School Podcaster show “the thing about law school and hiring is that it all happens in advance to a degree that a lot of people find sort of absurd.”

These concerns, made worse by the economy, may finally lead to changes in the recruiting timeline. NALP’s (National Association for Law Placement) Commission on Recruiting and the Legal Profession issued an initial report(PDF) this week recommending that law firms shift away from rolling offer deadlines to a framework based on specific dates (“Offer Kick-Off Days”) before which offers for employment cannot be made. The ABA Journal reports that the NALP Commission recommends moving back the date for summer associate job offers until mid-January of the second year of law school(establishing an “offer kick-off day”) and proposes “shortening the period of time during which offers remain open from 45 days to 14 days.”

While this initial Phase I of the NALP Commission’s report focused on potential changes that could be implemented as early as the 2010-2011 academic year, and thus focused mainly on timing guidelines, the NALP Commission also plans to look more closely at the topic of fundamental legal recruiting model changes. That could be pretty interesting.

While the American Lawyer reports that some law firms are worried the proposed changes will just mean they have to “wine and dine” candidates for a longer period of time, the NALP Commission suggests that a January Kick-Off Day might open up the possibility for employers “to experiment with more in-depth interviewing and assessment techniques” and “allow law firms to make decisions after receiving year-end financial data.”

Jim Leipold, is the Executive Director at NALP, and was a recent guest on our Law School Podcaster segment, The Current Economic Envcironment: What It Means for Law School Applicants and Students. He gave us a bit of a preview of what we’re hearing now and some insight into why the economy might be driving some of the possible changes in law firm recruiting. “Things were beginning to happen before the recession for a number of reasons but the recession accelerated most of those changes and I think will support those changes. I think, over time, we’ll see more firms drift toward recruiting later so, rather than the focus being on students as they return to school in the beginning of their second year, recruiting will probably begin to happen later in the second year, whether that’s late Fall or early Spring, and there too, different firms may choose to recruit at different times. So students are just going to have to be prepared for a much broader range of practices and understanding for each firm that they’re interested in what course that firm is choosing.”

To hear more on this topic, tune in to the full show, “The Current Economic Environment: What It Means for Law School Applicants and Students.”