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I should not have been surprised that the deadline for this column crept up on me. Lulled by a warm July and the Lake Michigan breeze, I kept thinking: “The Fall- that’s so far away.” Not so for most career services offices in law schools around the country. In our world Fall starts around the first of August. While many people are enjoying August vacations, law school career services offices are struggling to balance two simultaneous processes that have become increasingly complex and demanding: the on-campus interview process (OCI) for 2Ls and 3Ls and the judicial clerkship application process for 3Ls. First, let me say that judicial clerkships and large law firm jobs are good things. The processes of obtaining them, however, put a lot of strain in terms of personnel and resources on law school career services offices and employers alike and are not terribly efficient. Anyone in law school or who has graduated from law school in the past twenty years is familiar with the unique job searching process referred to as OCI. The OCI experience at any law school depends on the US News rank of the law school and, to some extent, the school’s geographical location. At US News-ranked top law schools, not only are there many more employers who come on campus, but students bid on employers and are selected by a lottery for interviews. Employers are then informed which students they can interview. At the vast majority of law schools, however, employers select the students they want to interview using GPA as the most important measure-with the result that the same twenty or thirty students may get the majority of the interviews. I started my career in career services at The John Marshall Law School, a local regional school in Chicago. I had a tough time getting many Chicago firms to walk across the street to interview my students-though I thought our top students could compete with those at any top law school. At Northwestern, employers ask: “How can we get more Northwestern students?” A process built on the students’ GPAs and the law school’s US News rank is not an efficient means of matching employers with the new lawyers they want and need. All employers want new attorneys who can hit the ground running, who have good writing skills and who exhibit maturity, confidence and good judgment. But the OCI process is to a large extent all about the students’ GPAs after one year of law school. Perhaps we should re-think the model and give employers access to a searchable database where they could search on prior job experience or languages spoken-anything but GPA. Employers rationalize the use of GPAs as a short-cut-a deeper search would require too much time given the numbers of student applicants involved. So what do employers end up with all too often through the OCI process? Good test-takers, most of whom leave their firms after a couple of years. An incredible waste of talent. Both schools and employers are too invested in the current system for any global rethinking to occur any time soon. Law schools recognize that prospective law students compare the numbers of on-campus interviewers from one law school to the next. We also realize that firms that come on campus have a much higher likelihood of hiring our students. For the firms, coming on campus means a chance to get their names in front of the students and to try to capture the “best” in new legal talent. Of course, OCI does not work for the majority of legal employers: smaller firms hire on an as-needed basis and public sector employers often cannot afford the attorney time to interview on campus nor can they plan their hiring needs two years in advance, as large employers do. On average, about 20% of law students, nationally, get jobs through OCI-yet it is a huge part of every career services budget and the pressure from an admissions standpoint to increase the number of employers who come to interview on campus is intense. Still, many law students do get jobs from the OCI process and some of our students do remain at those jobs for more than the two- to three-year norm. Personally, I enjoy OCI as a time to connect with alumni interviewers and other employers, to get information on the current job market and to get feedback on our students’ performance in interviews and on the job. The clerkship process, like OCI, is one in which, for most schools, an immense amount of our resources is spent on relatively few students. With the advent of the on-line application system (OSCAR), until all judges agree to join it, schools have both a paper and an electronic process to handle. The paper processes have become increasingly expensive as judges are requiring that all recommendation letters be included in student packets and that all packets from one school arrive together. Clerkships, unlike associate jobs, receive almost uniformly positive reviews from students who pursue them. As we tell our students, it’s the one thing besides journal participation that stays with them throughout their careers. The mentorship role gladly taken on by most judges provides an incredible learning environment for new law graduates. That said, until all applications can be submitted online, the clerkship process is costly and adversely affects smaller and public schools who do not have the personnel or budget to carry out a dual process. The end results of these two processes are admirable-students end up at prestigious law firms (or large government entities) through on-campus interviews and as judicial clerks. The processes themselves, however, are inefficient and take the career services staff away from what we do best as well as the thing that keeps us in the profession: counseling our students, in some cases so they can find “a” job and for many students so they can find a job which they love and which challenges what is best in them. William A. Chamberlain is assistant dean, Law Career Strategy and Advancement, Northwestern University School of Law.

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