Despite many of the public interest goals applicants write about in personal statements, most students at top law schools usually end up spending a few years at a big law firm. One reason is because law firm salaries are high and help students to pay down their loans. Another reason is that students gain a measurable skill set that employers value, both in the legal and business worlds. So for months, students read cases, outline, take exams, and aim for the best grades possible before eventually going through the recruiting process and interviewing at law firms all around the country. Well, that time has finally come for Northwestern’s class of 2012. And next week officially marks the beginning of law school OCI.
At long last, twelve months after moving to Chicago and embarking on the long and difficult journey of 1L, law school students at Northwestern will finally start to go through the OCI (on campus interview) recruiting process in just a few days. Unlike business school, where recruiting officially begins in January after students have a chance to get settled in, meet a larger variety of employers, and prep with classmates for case-based interviews, in law school, on-campus interviews officially begin in mid August before students ever step foot on campus. In times past, this was probably ideal for students, because it allowed them more time to prep for interviews in the summer before the hustle and bustle of classes started taking up more time. But now, even as the economy continues to improve, there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding recruiting, so there is not really an ideal time.
The good news for the class of 2012 is that schools and employers are projecting an increase in the number of summer associate positions available next summer as compared to last year, but nothing can be said for certain. First, the projections are based on the assumption that the economy continues to improve and doesn’t take a quick turn for the worse. It also assumes that the attrition rates continue at a normal pace and that firms haven’t decided to use more slots than normal on laterals or 3Ls looking for jobs.
Still, it’s likely that the recruiting numbers will increase this year given the number of employers who are coming to Northwestern and going to other campuses. After all, the number have increased dramatically, despite the fact that firms are being extremely conservative with their hiring decisions these days.
My 1L firm Vedder Price looks forward to hosting a summer class in the summer of 2011, and I look forward to seeing if anyone from Northwestern will join the firm. For the summer of 2010, the firm did not have an official class, but that was mostly because the firm wanted to focus on current employees and ensure that everyone in the class of 2009 had a spot at the firm upon graduation. And fortunately for graduates, the firm delivered on its promise, and everyone from the previous year ended up having a chance to go back to the firm.
But for a lot of other firms, there’s still the “elephant in the room” as students may wonder what happened to the employees who were recently deferred, laid off, or not given offers, just one year ago, before firms started increasing hiring again. But I suspect this is a question that likely won’t come up, which in my view may be for the best given that it’s hard to point fingers at anyone given the economic times that we’ve seen over the past two years. In fact, things were so bad that even many of the best-managed businesses and law firms couldn’t foresee the economic crisis coming, a fact which is supported by leading economists and recent supreme court opinions (Click here for the In re Citigroup legal opinion)
Fortunately, times are better now, and law firms and students are experiencing the best employment prospects that they’ve seen in a couple of years. This is great news for the class of 2012 and hopefully good news for those in the class of 2011 that are looking for new opportunities this year. It will be interesting to see how some of the numbers play out over the next few weeks during OCI.
Best of luck everyone with your interviews.
And stay tuned for more careers and recruiting details and news over the next few weeks.