If it seems I’m hard on the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), understand that it is out of love. We want NALP to succeed. We want them to gather reliable information from law firms; we want them to provide reasonable guidance for law students, schools, and firms. Having an organization like NALP sounds like such a good idea.
As my Dad used to say, “these occasional beatings hurt me more than they hurt you.”
But when NALP releases new provisional recruiting guidelines that address approximately zero issues regarding law firm recruiting, it’s hard not to go to the woodshed and start looking for switches. Here’s the headline news from NALP:
The NALP Board of Directors has announced provisional timing guidelines for the 2010 recruiting cycle, adopting a 28-day rolling response deadline for candidates not previously employed by the employer, and a November 1 response deadline for candidates who have been previously employed by the employer.
This decision comes on the heels of months of member outreach and industry dialogue about the legal industry’s recruiting processes. In a communication to its membership earlier today, the Board reported on the actions taken during its meeting yesterday.
The “old” NALP guideline provided for a 45-day open offer period. So, for those playing along at home, it took NALP a global economic recession and months of discussion for it to shave two and a half weeks off the open offer period. I’ve seen deck chair rearrangements more decisive than this….
When NALP first announced preliminary ideas about fall recruiting, the organization suggested holding an offer kickoff day, similar to what happens for judicial clerkships. The suggestion didn’t really please anybody. And later, Jones Day started yelling at NALP, and Peter Kalis — managing partner of K&L Gates — called for the organization to be disbanded.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about NALP in recent weeks, it’s that they are afraid of Biglaw firms. And since the offer kickoff day concept really didn’t resonate with law schools — the other stakeholder NALP pays attention to — it’s not that surprising that the proposal isn’t contained in today’s provisional guidelines. Here’s how NALP described its own backpedaling:
In early January of this year the Commission issued a report that included proposed recommendations that would have moved the current recruiting model away from rolling response deadlines to a model based on “offer kickoff dates,” specific dates before which offers could not be made. The recommendations responded to the recruiting challenges identified by the membership. During a public comment period our members participated in a spirited and thoughtful dialogue about the proposed recommendations. After reviewing member feedback it became clear that there was no consensus among the membership about the nature and scale of change that might be appropriate. As a result, the Commission did not submit its original proposal as a final recommendation.
At least offer kickoff day was a “new” idea. Cutting 17 days off the open offer period is maybe the only thing that NALP could suggest that completely fails to help anyone looking ahead to fall recruiting. It doesn’t address the concerns of firms that want a competitive advantage by making quick offer/acceptance turnarounds. It doesn’t address the concerns of law schools that feel pressured to start “fall recruiting” in the middle of the summer for fear that all the jobs will be snapped up before firms get to campus. And law students? Well, most of them just don’t want to be lied to — and there isn’t a single organization that seems to have any interest in extracting a modicum of honesty from firms when they are offering illusory jobs to new recruits.
And so, once again, we’re left with a recruiting process that nobody is happy with. Well done, NALP. A good compromise is one where no side leaves happy. But a great compromise is one where everybody feels like they are getting screwed with their pants on.
NALP Announces Provisional Timing Guidelines for 2010, Adopting 28-Day Rolling Response Deadline [NALP]
Earlier: NALP Won’t Distinguish Between Equity and Non-Equity Partners: Women, Minorities, and Lovers of Truth Get Angry
New NALP Rules Could Be on the Way
Hell of a (Jones) Day, Today