Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is pushing back the full-time start date for its current summer class to January 2012 and delaying the start of its on-campus recruiting season by a few months. The firm, which announced both moves internally and to law schools on Wednesday, said it was a better option than denying offers to its summers or to law students this fall.
While the typical, traditional campus recruiting season begins in August, Orrick is planning its on-campus interview process for November through March. Summer associates will also have until mid-November to accept Orrick's job offer.
"The two decisions we made relate to each other," said Orrick on-campus hiring partner Stephen Venuto. Students recruited this fall would normally be aiming for full-time slots in late 2011 or early 2012, he noted. "We're not going to go on campus and recruit until after the deadline for our current [summer] associates passes, so we know how many of them accept," said Venuto, who works in the Menlo Park, Calif., office. "To go out and recruit between now and November 15, not knowing how many offers we can make, is irresponsible."
Previously, citing the economy, Orrick had deferred associates who were supposed to start this fall. Venuto said that of that class, one-third is now expected to start this coming January, while about two-thirds have accepted one-year fellowships for public interest positions and will join Orrick in January 2011.
Without adjusting the start dates again, this year's summers would be arriving at the same time.
The timing has created "an unfortunate bottleneck," Venuto wrote in the firm's memo (.pdf) to deans.
Betsy Wang, who is in her seventh week of summering in Orrick's San Francisco office, said Thursday that although the news wasn't welcome, the firm explained the rationale and took time answering questions. "I really appreciate the fact that the firm recognizes that I made a decision and commitment to come to Orrick, and I think it's trying to do the same for me," said Wang, who begins her third year at Stanford Law School in the fall. "It's hard to hear news like that, but it's comforting to know where the firm's priorities lie."
Venuto told The Recorder Thursday that the firm explored other ways to handle the oversupply of young lawyers. One option was to make no offers to its current summer associates, he said, "but it would be prioritizing people we don't know yet over people who have voted with their feet already."
Orrick could also have gone ahead with its regular fall interview schedule and made no hires then. That would have helped the firm avoid negative publicity, he said. "We dismissed that pretty quickly because it doesn't fit with our core values, but I think it's going to be a common thing."
Beth Moeller, the assistant dean for career services at UCLA School of Law, said she wasn't aware of any other firm deferring summers to 2012, but several firms have said earlier this year they may have to defer start dates for 2009 summer classes.
Any firms coming to campus late stand the risk that some students will already have been hired, but the law school has always had a small spring recruiting session for other employers, she said. "I'd much rather see employers be loyal to the people that they've already brought on," she said.
Thomas Leatherbury, hiring partner at Vinson & Elkins in Texas, said there are advantages to recruiting later in the season. If a firm delays offers to January or February, for instance, it would have the opportunity to see students' fall grades. In the traditional recruiting cycle, law firms only see one year's worth of grades, not enough to see a trend that describes how a student does in the long run, he said. "It always helps to have more information about students than less."
Venuto and North America managing partner Gary Weiss, also based in Menlo Park, made the deferral announcement to all summer associates at the firm Wednesday morning via teleconference. Wang said they were given a day to think about questions, which they posed to recruiting partner James Kramer on Thursday. Some asked how many offers the firm thought it could make, Wang said. Others wanted to know if Orrick was worried about whether the delay in campus interviewing would put the firm behind competitors.
Wang isn't sure about her future, but she said a fellowship would jibe well with another interest of hers -- in public education policy. "I think it's a really great opportunity for me personally," she said. "It's one year, and in the grand scheme of your legal career, it's really short."