Law Students

The Growing Trend of “Precruiting” in BigLaw Firms: Early Summer Associate Hiring on the Rise
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In recent years, BigLaw firms have been revolutionizing their recruitment strategies by embracing a practice known as “precruiting.” This trend entails recruiting law students for coveted summer associate programs before the traditional on-campus interviewing process commences. This article explores the rise of precruiting, its implications, and the driving forces behind this significant shift in the legal industry’s hiring practices.

Precruiting Gains Momentum

Early Offers Defying Tradition

  
What
Where


In a groundbreaking revelation, it was reported that a remarkable 23.3% of offers extended to second-year law students for summer 2023 programs occurred before the formal on-campus interviewing process was initiated. This data, disclosed by Law.com, derives from insights provided by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). Notably, this percentage represents the highest ever recorded in any NALP survey, underscoring the growing popularity of precruiting within the legal community.

The Influence of NALP’s Decision

The genesis of this shift can be traced back to a pivotal decision made by the NALP in 2018. The NALP, recognizing the evolving dynamics of legal hiring, chose to eliminate strict timelines from its recruitment principles. This decision marked a departure from conventional norms. It opened the door for law firms to engage in earlier recruitment practices, leading to the rise of precruiting as a prominent strategy.

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The Precruiting Timeline



Starting Early: February Initiatives

Traditionally, law students pursued on-campus interview opportunities as they approached their second year of law school. However, the advent of precruiting has radically altered this timeline. Precruiting campaigns now kick off as early as February, enabling firms to secure top-tier talent months in advance of the formal recruitment season.

Preference Among the Giants

BigLaw’s Enthusiastic Adoption

It is the largest law firm that has displayed the most enthusiasm for precruiting. A striking revelation found that in 2022, a staggering 66% of firms boasting 501 or more lawyers actively engaged in precruiting efforts. This figure significantly surpasses firms’ 34% participation rate across the legal landscape. This disparity underscores the growing significance of precruiting within the BigLaw sector.

Driving Factors

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Effect

Nikia Gray, the executive director of the NALP, sheds light on the driving forces behind the rise of precruiting. She attributes this phenomenon to a “bit of a FOMO effect,” where law firms fear missing out on the top talent by adhering solely to the traditional on-campus interviewing process. This competitive landscape has led firms to embrace precruiting to secure candidates ahead of their peers, ensuring access to the most promising prospects.

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The Pressure of Exploding Offers

Gray also highlights the stress experienced by law students participating in early interviews, exacerbated by the prevalence of “exploding offers.” These offers are characterized by firms informing students that their job offers will expire if not accepted before on-campus recruiting begins. This high-pressure tactic adds another layer of complexity to the already intense recruitment process, further fueling the adoption of recruiting.

Conclusion

The legal industry’s adoption of precruiting signifies a paradigm shift in the traditional recruitment landscape. As BigLaw firms continue to embrace this practice, law students and legal professionals must adapt to this evolving dynamic. Precruiting has ushered in a new era of legal hiring, prompting firms to stay ahead in their quest for top talent.

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