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‘Recruiting Is Off the Table’ – OCI Season Postponed
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When it comes to summer associate recruiting, it’s most likely that January will become the new August.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thirteen of the T-14 law schools have postponed their on-campus interview programs.

One of the country’s most popular BigLaw feeder schools, Columbia Law, became the first to move its on-campus interview process to January 2021, according to a statement published on March 23.

  
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This week, Harvard Law School, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, and New York University School of Law joined the list of campuses postponing summer associate recruiting.

“Nobody is recruiting over the summer,” said Mark Weber, Harvard career services Dean. “It’s off the table. I think January will become the new August.”

Law firms say they opted for postponement in part because a move to pass/fail grading for the spring semester will mess the hiring process. Also, law firms are under a lot of stress and unclear whether they will be in a position to dispatch partners to law schools for interviews in late summer.

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“I firmly believe that the January schedule is the best solution to this current problem,” said Gavin White, the global hiring partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. “I’d go further and say that I hope we can continue with the January schedule in future years.”

White noted the move to a pass/fail system will likely impact the summer associate opportunities students will have:



“Unless we change the timetable for hiring, you are hiring off of one semester of grades,” he said. “That probably hurts the students who have a less-than-stellar first semester, but otherwise would have been able to show an improvement for the second semester. They are sort of being robbed of that opportunity. That’s something we look at—particularly students who don’t come from a privileged background may have a slower start at law school, but they figure it out in the second semester.”

White suggested the exact move that Columbia has made: “If you only have one semester of grades, it’s hard to get a meaningful and realistic assessment of someone’s academic performance,” White said.

“What I would really like to see is schools move on-campus interviews into January and February, where we would have 2L fall grades.”

Stanford Law School, Yale Law School, the University of Michigan Law School, the University of Chicago Law School, and Duke Law School are among the schools that have told students that OCI is moved to late fall or early 2021, but have not committed to a more specific timetable. Other schools, including Columbia, Harvard, NYU, the University of Virginia School of Law, and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, have said OCI will now be in January.

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law is the one T-14 school that hasn’t yet announced a postponement.

“I know that our law school and legal employer members are actively working through the impact of the current situation on summer programs and recruiting plans,” said James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement.

“During the current state of civil emergency, the NALP board of directors does not believe that there can be uniform solutions that will serve all institutions, but they do believe firmly that there are a multiplicity of solutions that will preserve the fundamental values of fairness, access, and transparency to which NALP is committed.”

Weber said that Harvard students welcomed the news that the summer associate recruiting program will be delayed until January.

“Most students really appreciated the move,” he said. “It’s one less thing for them to worry about.” In its email to students last week announcing the delay of the summer associate interview, Chicago’s career services office noted some advantages to the new winter recruiting schedule.

“This has many benefits for you, including giving you more time to research employers, to explore practice areas through research and classes, and to work with us on your job search strategies,” the email reads.

Delaying OCI ultimately gives both law firms and students more time and breathing room to make plans amid the swiftly changing situation, and the postponement gives the pandemic time to subside before hiring takes place, Weber noted.

Even under that rosy scenario, career services offices are bracing for hiring slowdowns. “We know next year won’t have the same kind of robust hiring that we’ve seen for the past two years,” Weber said. “That’s not hard to figure out.” Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky informed the students Monday that delaying OCI until January is a blessing in disguise as it will give them the best possible chance at securing a summer associate position under the difficult circumstances brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

“Employers will have a much better sense of their hiring needs in January than in August, and there is reason to hope that they will be able to do more hiring at the later time,” he wrote.

“Most of all, it is clear that employers would prefer this shift.”



 

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