A year ago, firms were playing suitor, seducing recruits with fat salaries and meals at first-class restaurants.
The seduction has ended. Firms are now the cad. First came the layoffs. Then, during the fall recruiting season, some firms rescinded job offers to second-year law students — even before the official response date. (Under National Association for Law Placement (NALP) rules, students have 45 days from the date of the offer to respond.) Firms are reneging on offers, explains NALP executive director James Leipold, because they are getting more acceptances than expected.
Placement officials at the University of Texas, Stanford and Georgetown law schools confirmed the rescissions but declined to name the firms involved. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, though, confirms that it took back some offers. The firm sent The American Lawyer‘s Bar Talk an e-mail saying that it “felt it necessary to close the 2009 summer classes in Los Angeles and New York” because the acceptance rate for its summer program in those cities “was greater than anticipated.”
Other firms, says NALP’s Leipold, chose a more indirect approach: “They’re not rescinding the offer; they’re just communicating to the student that they have a very big summer class, and that not everyone will get an offer.” Proskauer Rose is one firm that has reportedly used this soft method. The firm did not respond to requests for comment.
Though no one knows how many firms have rescinded offers, there have been enough that NALP reissued its 2001 do’s and don’ts list — a sort of etiquette guide — on the subject. NALP suggests, among other things, that employers consider providing “some financial remuneration to affected students. So far, Leipold says he hasn’t heard of any firms paying off students. NALP also advises students to stay cool and “not to burn bridges with the employer by being unreasonably demanding or antagonistic.” In other words, threatening the firm with a lawsuit might not be wise.
The rescissions have made law students far less cocky. “When the economy was flush, students would hold offers until the last day; some would say with bravado they were holding on to multiple offers,” says Leipold. “Generationally, this is a group that has been reluctant to commit.” Now, students are more humble, and communicate their decisions “as soon as possible,” says David Montoya, assistant dean for career services at the University of Texas School of Law.
The situation is even worse for third-years. “The 3L market is dead,” says a partner at an Am Law 100 firm. “If you didn’t get an offer from the summer or if you decided to do something else [beside being a summer associate], you’re out.”
Maybe it’s time to think about staying in school another year for a combined J.D./MBA degree.