Biglaw, Job Searches, Law Schools, NALP, National Association for Law Placement (NALP)

Fall Recruiting Glitters in the Golden State

Greetings, loved ones. Hello there, California girls (and boys). We hope that you’re doing well. Gay marriage might be on hold for now, but there are other unions to celebrate on the West Coast.

Like unions between law firms and job-seeking law students. As we’ve discussed in these pages before, on-campus interviewing at law schools seems to be on the upswing.

And it’s not just in New York, where schools like Columbia and NYU report increased interviewing activity. It’s happening in California too, as reported by Sara Randazzo and Kari Hamanaka of the Daily Journal:

Career counselors around the state are reporting that the number of employers signing on to the recruiting process this year is either steady or up slightly. The mood, however, is still tempered by the reality that the recruiting climate is nowhere near the fever pitch preceding the downturn when there were barely enough top law students to go around for associate-hungry firms.

“When I talk to lawyers in the field, it seems things are busier, but given all the excess in the hiring pipelines they are still very conservative,” said Terrence Galligan, assistant dean of career development at UC Berkeley School of Law.

Well, conservative can be good (and not just politically). The conservative hiring of summer associates for 2010, for example, seems to have resulted in very high offer rates.

For 2011, some firms that stayed on the sidelines in 2010 are back in the game….

According to the Daily Journal, several law firms that had no summer programs in 2010 are planning to hire summer associates for 2011. They include Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Howard Rice, and Luce Forward. In addition, Pillsbury Winthrop, which had no West Coast summer associates this year, plans to hire some for Los Angeles and San Francisco this time around.

Which students will land these coveted summer associate gigs? Many of them are obtained through on-campus interviewing (OCI). And a student’s likelihood of snagging a job through OCI varies from school to school:

The chance of landing a summer job through OCI, which is aimed at incoming second-year students, varies widely across California’s 19 American Bar Association-accredited law schools. Nationwide, 23.4 percent of law students find their first job through on-campus interviews, according to the National Association for Law Placement. At schools traditionally ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report, like Berkeley, that proportion can jump as high as 59 percent, and at schools like the University of San Francisco School of Law, currently ranked No. 98 by U.S. News, it can be as low as 12 percent.

If you’re a law student going through OCI this year, you should be aware of the new timetable instituted by the powers-that-be at NALP:

[This year NALP] tweaked their recruiting guidelines slightly by shortening the amount of time students have to respond to offers to 28 days from 45 days. NALP also pushed up the deadline for students receiving a job offer after being a summer associate from Nov. 15 to Nov. 1.

Although the job market seems to be picking up, we think it would be unwise for students to delay unnecessarily in accepting their offers. (This is not a new position for us to take.)

Some law firm recruiting partners and law school career advisers voiced frustration and disappointment at the failure to make more sweeping changes to the hiring timetable. Alas, inertia prevailed. This is the legal profession, after all.

But at least one firm found a little play in the joints:

To make a statement that the current recruiting schedule is not the only one that works, Jones Day struck a deal with Northwestern Law School to come to campus one month later than everyone else this year. [Jones Day partner Greg] Shumaker said the move, though not dramatic, shows the firm’s confidence that good students can be recruited throughout the year.

“If other firms will follow our lead, we will get this into a mode where we can figure out an intelligent solution,” Shumaker said.

Interesting. In describing the move as “not dramatic,” it seems that Shumaker has come around to our view. (Other news outlets hailed the move by Jones Day as “bold,” but we questioned the boldness.)

Regardless of the hiring timetable, law students who want jobs really need to shine:

[W]ith 2011 class sizes not expected to return anywhere near the peak, students have to step up their game to compete for the coveted positions, Santa Clara School of Law’s assistant dean for career services Vicki Huebner said.

“More is being asked of someone who may be a young professional starting off,” Huebner said. “We’ve all had our moments of naiveté, but now those moments of naiveté are gone.”

Sigh. Naiveté. Wasn’t that fun? NY to 190, anyone?

Firms Signal Recruiting Optimism [Daily Journal (subscription)]

Here’s a table summarizing what the fall 2010 recruiting season looks like at various California law schools and law firms, courtesy of the Daily Journal. You can read the full article over there too (with subscription).

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