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September! Classes have started and the eager first-years have brought with them to campus once again that positive energy about all things law school that so renews all law school administrators. Meanwhile, the second-years (and a few third-years) have completed the first phase and are well into the second phase of that unique process that has been the subject of so much debate lately: Fall (Summer) On-Campus Interviews (OCI). Around the country, law school career advisors are counseling both the fortunate students who have many callbacks and those who have not received any. No matter how much reality testing we do, some level of disappointment is inevitable among students who have been over-achievers for their entire lives. Meanwhile, in the market at large, we are seeing continued firm layoffs (though on a smaller scale) and offers to recent graduates being rescinded. We are anxiously waiting to see how many callbacks will turn into offers for our students and what the final results of this second post-crash OCI season will be. Nationally, there appeared to be a slight uptick in OCI activity at law schools over Fall 2009 with some employers adding interview schedules and others returning to a few of the schools that they did not visit last year. All government employer schedules were full or nearly so this year. Some firms made a large number of callback offers; others were more conservative. Anecdotally, we have heard that several firms are increasing the size of their summer programs somewhat for next summer. This is particularly encouraging given the less than rosy news lately from the rest of the economy. We hope that these increases result in more offers for our students. Based on conversations with students, not many interview questions this year have been behavioral. If they were, they seemed to be fairly predictable: “Tell me about a time that you worked as part of a team” or “Tell me about a project you managed from start to finish.” Employers seemed more concerned with a student’s connection to a firm’s market and with why a student wanted to work in a large firm — particularly when the student might have little corporate experience. Career centers advised students that the interviews are not about “you” but what you can do for the employers. Encouraging news comes from our third-year students — many firms are reporting giving 100 percent offers to the members of their 2010 summer classes — a pleasant change from a year ago. The increase in offers has not dampened third-year students’ enthusiasm for clerkships, however, and the number of applicants and the number of applications were both strong again this year. In contrast with last year, we have seen more third-years who did not work in large firms this past summer receiving callback offers at large firms. According to a few early reports, NALP’s new 28-day rule seems to have resulted in callback seasons that are more compressed this year and that are also finishing up earlier. Some firms, particularly in New York, made early August offers (some before OCI was over). These “early movers” appear to have caused a slight uptick in the number of students requesting extensions from the firms from which they have received offers — especially if a student is interviewing in both New York and Los Angeles, for example. Whether such requests are granted of course depends on the individual firm and on the individual candidate. While most large firms this year conformed reluctantly to the requirement of the “top” law schools that they visit campus in August, the effort to move OCI out of August is far from dead. Certainly efforts to better match candidates and employers (if such methods do exist) are worth pursuing. Also, a focus on core competencies is essential to move both employers and schools forward. The issues swirling around the OCI process can be neatly divided into substance and timing, for example, emphasis on GPAs versus true predictors of associate success. As for timing, spring, 3L year, September and August all have their partisans — and all with good reason. While these thorny issues will continue to be debated, the key for both employers and schools is outcome: Do the firms get the students who will be successful at those firms and do the students get the jobs that are the best fit for them. In the meantime, we hope that our second- and third-year students and can benefit from the emotional bounce provided by the new first-years. William A. Chamberlain is the assistant dean of Northwestern University School of Law.

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