On Friday we reported that, after months of discussion, NALP would be changing to the 45-day open offer period to a 28-day open offer period, and otherwise leaving fall recruiting to proceed much as it has been. Today, we’re learning why NALP decided to abandon more ambitious plans to actually make recruiting better for students, law schools, and law firms. Apparently, fundamental change is just too damn hard. The National Law Journal reports:
NALP Executive Director Jim Leipold said that the organization received 800 responses to the proposal since it was unveiled in early January.
“It became clear that there was no easy consensus or even a trend around one particular idea,” he said. “Law firms and law schools are both conservative and risk-averse institutions. The scope of change was very large and it doesn’t surprise me that there was resistance.”
I feel bad for Jim Leipold. It seems like a large part of his job involves running around explaining why his organization can’t actually do anything useful.
NALP stakeholders may be happy, but students are just as screwed as ever.
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….
Yesterday we wrote about NALP’s decision to allow firms to blur the equity / non-equity partner distinction. Today, the WSJ Law Blog, the ABA Journal, and Business Insider have coverage of the issue.
But NALP isn’t the only organization attempting to gather information on law firm partnerships. Vault is also in that game, and according to a senior law editor Vera Djordjevich, they have no problem getting the very equity versus non-equity partnership information NALP ignores:
[O]ur diversity survey requests — and most law firms provide — separate numbers for equity partners and non-equity partners. …
The database includes statistics for equity vs non-equity partners for each of the demographic groups the survey addresses (gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability). Of the firms that participate in the survey, a small percentage refuse to distinguish between partnership tiers in their reporting, but that fact is generally disclosed in a footnote. For example, Kirkland & Ellis reports that it has more than one partnership tier but includes all data in the equity partner category, explaining that the firm “does not distinguish between equity and non-equity partners for the purpose of external surveys.”
So Vault is at least asking the questions — but are they getting answers? Details after the jump.
We’ve devoted a lot of coverage to the NALPguidelines regarding summer associate hiring. At the beginning of the recruiting season, I suggested that the NALP guidelines were so toothless that law students should disregard them, just as the law firms have done. During the fall recruiting season, Sullivan & Cromwell was eager to ignore NALP, and they were stopped only by collective law school action, inspired by Harvard Law School.
After a second consecutive year of nobody being happy with the NALP guidelines, in January the organization finally indicated that it might change things up before the next recruiting season. The core of the proposed new program would be to set a date before which firms could not extend offers to potential summer associates. At the time, I was unimpressed:
I don’t know. Increasingly, I’m of the belief that the old system just needs to be blown up and a new one should be built from scratch. How can a firm make a realistic hiring decision nearly two years in advance based on one year of law school? How can a law student make an informed choice when firms straight-up lie to them?
We now know that my lack of confidence in NALP’s new proposals was nothing compared to what they were feeling at Jones Day. The firm has been all over the web today, making it known that it’s not at all impressed with NALP or the new proprosed guidelines, which it perceives as anti-competitive.
If Kanye West talked about this past fall recruiting season, he’d probably say: “Biglaw doesn’t care about the NALP people.” This fall, we saw firms give the suggested 45-day open offer period an extended middle finger. Harvard Law School’s career services dean had to lead a revolt against Sullivan & Cromwell. I even suggested that law students should try ignoring NALP, just like the big firms did.
Apparently, NALP isn’t going to take this industry-wide disrespect lying down. They’ve formed a commission! The commission is writing a report! And, by golly, we’re going to get some real, draconian … guidelines, worth at least the paper they’re printed on. Am Law Daily reports:
Among the recommendations, according to three sources familiar with the report: Setting a date, likely sometime in late fall, before which firms would be prohibited from making offers to prospective summers. That proposed structure would replace the current system, under which firms can make offers to prospective summer associates at any time after interviewing them and then must leave those offers open for 45 days.
Respect NALP’s authority!
Look, they have to try something. Because right now nobody is happy with fall recruiting.
In our last post about Winston & Strawn, we covered an “all associates” meeting at which the firm admitted conducting layoffs, but refused to divulge information about their scope. The firm said something along these lines: “Out of respect for the individuals involved, we won’t publicly disclose either future layoffs or past layoff numbers.”
Several commenters questioned that rationale. See, e.g., here:
WTF does that mean?! Are they dead [so] that W&S doesn’t want to speak (ill) of them?
I think I’ll try injecting that into my daily life. “Out of respect for the individuals involved, I won’t publicly disclose either future sexual affairs or past mistress numbers.” I like that… think it’ll work?
Commenters also requested estimates of the size of Winston’s layoffs.
We don’t have hard data ourselves. But we estimate — conservatively, we think — that Winston & Strawn has laid off at least 15 percent of its lawyers in 2009 to date.
So, how did we reach this number?
[Speaking in the voice of the late, great Don LaFontaine] In a world where 2Ls are terrified. In a time when Biglaw openly flouts NALP rules. There was one man who would not take it anymore.
[Cue sweeping and inspiring theme song] That man was Harvard Law School’s Assistant Dean for Career Services, Mark Weber.
Without the knowledge of the general public, the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell told 2Ls interviewing with the firm that it would disregard the 45 day waiting period for holding open offers. Instead, the firm would expect a decision in just two weeks. Am Law Daily reports:
In late July, S&C called several of the nation’s top law schools and informed career services personnel at those schools that the firm would not be following the 45-day guideline, according to six sources with direct knowledge of the situation. All six spoke only on the condition that they not be identified publicly.
Instead, S&C told the career services personnel, the firm would require prospects to respond yes or no in two weeks.
But S&C wasn’t prepared for Mark Weber.
Click below to continue listening to this trailer.
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….
There’s nothing quite like the burning smell of deflation on a Monday morning. NALP has released its associate salary survey. The good news is that the median starting salary for associates is $130,000. The bad news is that there is no way on God’s green earth that the median salary is going to stay that high. The ABA Journal reports this excerpt from the NALP survey:
Salary information for the survey by NALP, an association for legal career professionals, was collected as of April 1, before large law firms paying the prevailing beginning salary of $160,000 began to cut pay. “This year’s report reflects what is likely to be the apogee of large firm salaries for the foreseeable future,” according to a NALP press release.
A cursory glance at Above the Law’s salary cut page will reveal that New York will secede from the Union sooner than New York will go to $190K. But there are other factors in play that will push down future median salary numbers.
More details after the jump.
Yesterday, we mentioned a NALP “glitch” that allowed users to get a sneak peak at the organization’s 2009 statistics about law firms. The problem, whatever it was, was fixed soon after we alerted NALP to the problem. Here’s the quick statement we obtained from NALP:
Legal employers provide this data to NALP each winter. NALP is pleased to be able to publish this free online searchable database each spring once the data submissions are finalized.
As promised, today we take a look at some of the overall summer program numbers from the firms that are ranked 11 through 20, according to Vault (check out firms 1 – 10 here).
The moderately surprising fact is that this next batch of firms didn’t decrease their overall summer associate offers as much as the Vault top ten. Looking at the firm’s New York offices, there was a 14% decrease in offers to 2Ls, compared with a nearly 20% decrease in the V10.
But, one firm really does skew those numbers. More details after the jump.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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