Early Results in Recruiting Season: Uncertainty, and a Lesson to Remember

William A. Chamberlain, Assistant Dean at Northwestern University Law School, recently wrote an article for NLJ.com about preliminary results of the fall interview season for 2Ls and 3Ls, and speculated a bit on the “second post-crash” on-campus interview season.  For current law students and those considering law school, Chamberlain’s article is valuable reading.

Chamberlain summarizes some generally available data—a slowdown in law firm layoffs, a slight uptick in law firm on-campus interviewing at top schools, increases in offer rates for 3Ls and the rumored reinvigoration of summer associate programs, among others.  All good news, one would think, but Chamberlain declines (correctly, in my view) to make too much of this limited data.  His basic conclusion—the signs are hopeful but it’s simply too early to tell, especially since we’ve seen law firms and others rescind what applicants thought were hard offers during the last couple of years.

Chamberlain also reports very interesting anecdotal information about recent employer interviewing.  He’s heard that employers are increasingly asking questions that are aimed at what their interviewees think they can contribute to the interviewing organization, and that “Career centers advised students that the interviews are not about ‘you’ but what you can do for the employers.”  It’s a buyer’s market, so that’s what we should expect, but it’s a significant shift from the days when interviewing firms and government agencies at top law schools spent a good deal of time telling applicants why the applicant should want to work for them.

If a general trend, the change in interview focus is probably for the best, if (as my mother drilled into me) honesty is the best policy.  In the end (actually from your first day at a new job), from an employer’s perspective, an employee’s success is always based on what the employee can do for the organization.  It’s better to have that out in the open at the outset.  Yes, bright law students should have been able to figure it out anyway, but some didn’t and expected a different environment from what they got; the disconnect between what a new lawyer expected (whether or not abetted by an employer) and what the legal work-world really was like contributed a fair amount to lawyer dissatisfaction.

If the seller’s market ever returns, we can hope that the lessons of the downturn are not forgotten—law is a business, and entering lawyers should expect that the constraints and opportunities that one would expect of any other respectable business will be operative in their legal employment.  That may be a more sober view of life in the law than many of us had when we first went to law school, but not to be taken in by romanticism (whether self-produced or aided by rosy-sounding employers) will help lawyers be better-satisfied with the career they’ve chosen.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on October 5, 2010.

One Response to “Early Results in Recruiting Season: Uncertainty, and a Lesson to Remember”

  1. […] in law school.  Moreover, if the decline is not random, it’s important whether or not the rumored rebound of summer associate programs comes to […]

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