Last recruiting season, Above the Law was the first publication to warn law students to accept their offers for summer employment as soon as possible.
This year that advice is so obvious that even law school career service professionals are telling students to accept offers quickly. William A. Chamberlain, assistant dean for law career strategy and advancement at Northwestern, wrote an article for the National Law Journal this week, strongly urging students to make decisions rapidly:
Our message to students about how to handle offers has been straightforward — accept your offer quickly. The key is to get a job for next summer. Smart students will not rely on NALP’s 45-day guideline but rather accept their offers as soon as humanly possible. [W]e have dealt with all sorts of reactions by firms to the economy and are urging our students to be risk-averse. Any sense of entitlement will be fatal this fall.
Relying on NALP guidelines = fatal?
You know, when the career services dean is directly warning students not to rely upon the NALP rules, I am forced to ask why students should heed the NALP rule limiting the number of offers students can accept….
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. Try sending them a letter like this:
Dear Firm X,
As you know, the recession has significantly impacted many law students and young associates. While I remain a strong candidate for employment, with excellent credentials and a stellar work ethic, I am not immune from the general effects of the economy. I must select the summer employer that will offer me the highest likelihood of an offer and the highest job security once I arrive at the firm. Accordingly, even though I said I would work for your firm this summer, I now am forced to revoke that commitment.
This was a difficult decision. I still value your firm and your contribution to my fall recruiting experience. I would be happy to write a letter on your behalf to other students who are still considering whether or not to abandon your firm for more stable employment environments.
Please do not disseminate this letter to Above the Law or other media outlets. I do not want everybody to know how I screwed you over. I’d much rather you bear that burden silently, so I can maintain my reputation with my peers and with other employers I may seek to work with in the future.
Not as dumb as you thought I was.
Or maybe students should take it one step further? Should 2Ls accept all their offers, start the summer employment process with all the firms, and wait to make a decision on which firm to keep after the first of the year? This would give summer associates more time to figure out which firms are paying bonuses, which firms are adopting new compensation structures that reduce base salaries, and which firms are laying off a lot of people based on their 2009 revenue numbers.
There are a lot of summer associates who accepted offers last fall, only to regret their decision after firms conducted significant layoffs and salary cuts in the intervening months. Shouldn’t summers be allowed to “defer” their decision on which firm to summer with until they’ve received as much information as possible?
Many firms decided to not honor their commitments to their new employees because of the recession. Are this year’s 2Ls so docile that they will “play by the rules,” even when the rules no longer apply to their prospective employers?