I overheard a guy talking at a networking event earlier this week. Turned out he was a law student working in Chicago this summer and had just finished his first year at another law school. Like so many others, he was afraid he might graduate without a job and was looking for a few tips on how to navigate the process. He mentioned that he attended a top tier program outside of Chicago, spent a few years before that as a paralegal at a white shoe firm, and attained a median GPA at his school. But he still feared his prospects coming out.
Unfortunately, that story isn’t unique. I know dozens of people, if not more, that have been saying the same thing for the past twelve months. And suddenly now, there’s an epidemic of fear rushing not only across the Midwest, but also across the entire U.S. because law school recruiting happens in just a couple of weeks. Resumes are due in late July and interviews begin in mid August. And in the first recruiting cycle since the worst legal recruiting season ever, the question is, “how are law students going to fare?”
As you might suspect, that’s a really difficult question. One that most students, and even law firms, can’t answer. After all, the legal industry did just experience on of the worst economic aftershocks in history. Firms cut classes and handed out deferrals. Profits per partners fell. And morale has followed suit.
So today, firms today are treading new waters, scrambling to change the stakes of the market. And that’s not only happening in law school, but the pandemic and the associated reflex by the industry is also happening in other graduate programs and for those freshly minted out of college.
In my view, though, law students are probably feeling it the hardest, largely because the legal market trails the economic market, which has only started to recover in the past months. So students are studying a little harder, stressing out a bit more often, and many now believe that they’ve already sealed their career fate after two semesters.
But it’s always good to take a step back and think about things from a 30,000-foot view. Because in the end, there’s a lot more that goes into finding the right employee than two semesters of GPA. After all, there’s a gigantic list of CEO, firms partners, and successful politicians who came out of school without a 4.0. And many of them had grades below the median. In fact, I wrote a recent post about the CEO of the decade, Steve Jobs, who did not even graduate from college. But because things are looking so uncertain now, because things haven’t worked out perfectly for the classes ahead, and because summer associate numbers at firms have been cut by more than half, I definitely understand the concern.
And with this in mind, I recently stumbled across a couple of articles on the Wall Street Journal website. The first article is on GPAs. It discusses how to talk about your GPA during interviews, when to put it on your resume, and what other things you can emphasize if your GPA isn’t as high as you would like – things all of us have thought about before. The second article is a shorter piece on how to interact with campus recruiters. It comes from the perspective of a recruiter. And although it’s intended audience might be college graduates, it’s content is very relevant to anyone interacting with recruiters from any industry.
See below for summaries of the articles and links to written pieces on WSJ.
And more importantly, good luck with recruiting this fall.
“By the time a college graduate transitions to the working world, he or she has spent years being defined by numbers: SATs, GPAs, GREs, class rank and so on. As a result, and understandably, college graduates with a thin portfolio of work experience assume hiring managers will place a great deal of stock in their overall GPA as a gauge of intelligence, capabilities and competence. That’s not always true. …”
“As a member of the campus recruiting team for Ford Motor Co., I would travel to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign two to three times a year on a mission to discover the best available talent for opportunities at the company. These trips enabled me to gain key insights into the relationship between employer and prospective candidate. The most valuable lesson learned was…”