Last August, most students came to Northwestern Law ready to study hard, perform well, and make their way to a top tier law firm. But for some, that plan got thrown out of the window a long time ago. By November, before recruiting ever began for 1Ls, the economic environment was the nation’s center of attention. So students began making appointments with advisers. And the career center quickly took charge and did a good job of loudly communicating the message to keep our options open. And in December, students started pumping out applications. To law firms, government agencies and non profits. Both big and small. You name it, somebody sent it. All in hopes of an interview.
But things have definitely shifted a bit over the past few months. After a rocky and unpredictable start, students are now balancing school with their job searches. Some students seem to look a bit more stressed, and some seem in more of a hurry. But most of the group seems to be staying cool and collected–the older Northwestern Law students seem to hand pressure well. And as for the rest, you really just don’t see them at the school very often. Only in class, the career office, or dressed in their best suit on their way to an interview. In fact, on any given day you’ll spot someone cruising the atrium in their best suits and newly shined shoes. It’s so common that nobody usually takes a second look.
Also more students are increasingly becoming interested in non-profits and in public service organizations, which is a great by-product of the economy. And this isn’t just happening here at Northwestern, students are feeling the urgency at most of the top schools. I recently spoke with a friends at Penn, Harvard, and Chicago, and the climate is similar.
In general, the first year law student job search can be a bit chaotic. In some sense, it’s a bit of an unstructured process, where companies post jobs periodically, others come in one by one to OCI (on campus recruiting process), and others come drop by for career fairs or employers mixers. Unlike second year summer recruiting where all the employers come during the same period, interview dozens of students, and hand out offers, most 1Ls rely on an individual search.
The up side to this less formal process is that you can do a lot of it at your own pace and on your own time. For some, this means getting done very quickly or being able to spread the search out over time, which may help you with balance. The down side is that for most it will end up taking longer, given there are less jobs to go around. For some, this might mean making a trade-off between grades and the job search, if students don’t balance everything correctly. And that decision may depend on first semester grades or on work history. But it’s hard to say how things will turn out this year, here or elsewhere, because we’re still right in the middle of the process.
So at this point, a lot of 1Ls here are still looking and deciding what to do for the summer, which is typical, even during the best recruiting years. For one, some students don’t want to get tied down without going for their top job choice first. Others will sometimes work a few different angles at the same time, which may lengthen the process. Although I suspect less of that will happen this year. Also, the 1L schedule usually lasts through the spring, given the majority of first year students don’t even begin until January.
The hard part though, in writing a more detailed post, is that recruiting, just like most of law school has a big element of secrecy. Just as most people don’t say much about grades, an ever smaller number talk about jobs, especially early in the process and especially now when things so uncertain. I think a lot of the 1Ls followed the lead of the 2Ls, who recently went through the worst recruiting cycle ever and thus were quieter than normal.
But personally, I’ve been asking around, and I’ve got a bit of information on a small number of first years, and some have already locked down jobs. Some will be working for government agencies, like the FTC, others at non-profits and legal aid organizations, and others clerking for judges here in Chicago and elsewhere in the U.S. But I suspect that many students will be working on recruiting for a good chunk of the semester, and some for the full semester. For those hoping to work in GC offices or at firms, the large majority of hiring decisions have not been made yet. In fact, some firms haven’t even begun their interview process.
As for the JD-MBAs, most of the group is not going through the 1L recruiting process. Instead, they’ll be taking classes full-time this summer. A few are looking at short-term assignments before classes begin, and a smaller few are going through the recruiting process. But the good news for JD-MBAs here at Northwestern is that part of our program includes the opportunity to work at either the Small Business Opportunity Clinic or at in a local company General Counsel’s office during the first summer. Both experiences are supposed to be a lot of fun and a good chance to learn a lot. I suspect that a majority of my classmates will end up working in either of the two roles. We’ll see how the numbers turn out.