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Baby, It’s Cold Out There! Law Firms Respond to Proposed Changes in Recruiting at Law Schools

Change does not come easily to the citizens of Law Firm Land. Witness the tepid reaction, if not downright frigid, by some big law firms to the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) Report’s (pdf) recommendation to move the period when offers are extended to law students to January, five months after on-campus interviews.

For those not yet familiar with the acronym from the on-campus interviewing (OCI) experience, NALP is the national organization of law schools and employers that, among other things, sets guidelines on the annual on-campus interview season, and determines how long students can hold onto a job offer before making a decision. Tradition is king here — the process has remained pretty much the same for 40 years, with law firms recruiting on campus in the fall and making offers shortly thereafter.

The recent NALP Commission and subsequent Report (see our earlier post detailing the Report’s recommendations) came as a result of the recession, where law firms found themselves overstaffed and forced to lay off hundreds of lawyers in New York and nationwide, and delayed by up to one year the first-year start dates.

Jones Day was an early critic of the plan for an “offer kick-off day” in mid-January during students’ second year of law school and now has offered more details in a critique (PDF) on its website that says the plan is an anticompetitive “radical restructuring” of the recruitment process.

NALP solicited comments to the recommendations in the Report and they are hearing back from member law firms and law schools. According to Jim Leipold, executive director at NALP, “almost universally people felt a January kick-off date was too late.” The biggest issue? Recruiting officials at firms have expressed concerned that a January “offer kick-off day” will create a prolonged recruiting season with law firms spending nearly half a year wining and dining top students.

Leipold told the New York Law Journal, reaction to its proposals among the schools and firms is “mixed.” NALP is reviewing feedback from more than 825 members, including more than 125 written comments.

NALP’s Jim Leipold was a guest on Law School Podcaster’s segment, “The Current Economic Environment: What It Means for Law School Applicants & Students.” Tune into the full show to hear more on this topic.

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