Cold Offers, Job Searches, Summer Associates

Fall Recruiting Open Thread: Cold Offers

cold offer copy.jpgAugust marks the end of extravagant lunches and open bars, and the return to the starving-student lifestyle for this year’s batch of summer associates. This time of year also presents summers with a big, anxiety-inducing question:

Am I getting The Offer — i.e., an offer to return to The Firm on a more permanent / full-time basis, after graduation?

Some summers find out about their future employment prospects while still at their law firms. This might happen during an exit interview, or it might happen in more public fashion:

The DC office of Latham & Watkins just called all summer associates into a conference room and announced that they were extending offers to 100% of the DC summer associate class.

We haven’t confirmed this with the firm, but if true — congratulations, Lathamites of Washington!
(We also hear, through the grapevine, that Shearman & Sterling gave offers to all 135 of its SAs. If you know of other 100-percent-offer shops, feel free to note them in the comments. Please note, however, that what appears in the comments is unverified. So caveat lector.)
Update: Shearman gave offers to 139 out of 140 summers who were considered for offers. See here.
Other summer associates don’t learn their fates until after the end of their programs. Word might come a week or two after the program ends — or even later. Our estimable (but outgoing) editor-in-chief recalls that Wachtell Lipton didn’t notify its summer class about offers until September. (That was several years ago; WLRK’s current practice may differ.)
Read more about cold offers — including a more detailed explanation of what exactly is a cold offer, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the institution — after the jump.

We noticed conversations about “cold offers” on Justin’s summer offers survey and on one of our OCI posts. Ominously, many senior attorneys who responded to the “Offers for Summer Associates” survey expect the number of permanent offers to decline due to the weak economy.
There’s speculation that more “cold offers” will be extended this year. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the practice, a “cold offer” sounds something like this: “We are making you an offer, but… based on this summer, we think that YOU WOULD BE HAPPIER ELSEWHERE.” The firm will print up an offer letter, but it’s been made very clear to the summer associate that he or she is actually NOT welcome to return.
So what’s the value of the cold offer? Defenders say it has utility for both law students and law firms.
Cold-offered law students get to say during their 3L interviews that they received offers from their summer employers, but aren’t interested in going back. That certainly looks better to a prospective employer than confessing that, for example, you got fired after a lesbianic smooch.
The firms doling out the cold offers get to say that they made offers to all, or almost all, of their summer associates (including the not-really-an-offer offers). After all, a cold offer is still technically an “offer.” Offer rates are published by the NALP, so 2Ls applying to law firms are aware of them. Having a high offer rate helps in recruiting the next year’s summer class.
So, the candidate gets to claim desirable employability, and the firm gets to hype high offer rates. What if the candidate actually accepts the cold offer? We’re picturing “Milton” from Office Space: a windowless office next to the bathroom, and nothing but doc review.
We invite you to take the poll and share your thoughts on the cold offer. Is an offer a dish that’s not best served cold?

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