The Changing Landscape of Summer Associate Recruiting
In December 2018, the National Association for Legal Placement (NALP) drastically changed its legal recruiting guidelines which had—while technically on a voluntary basis—governed that timeline for years prior. The two biggest changes for recruiters were to rescind the former requirement that offers to students be held open for 28 days, and to eliminate the prior restrictions on when recruiters could begin courting students in earnest. Before, schools could not provide career services before October 15th, and employers could not interview or give offers to students before December 1st of the 1L year. Those concrete guidelines are gone. Five years after this change, what changes have firms and recruiters made in light of the new rules? The short answer—everything happens earlier and moves faster.
Traditional OCI takes place near the end of August, right before classes begin. Many schools have begun offering early interview programs, through which specific employers and students can register and go through a more targeted process. For example, both Harvard Law School and Berkeley Law ran early interview programs for 2023 during the first week of August. To participate in those early programs, law students need to be more on top of their schedules than before—bidding for early interviews typically closes in late July, a scant two months after exams and likely right in the thick of your 1L summer job. However, early interviews are a potent weapon in your job search arsenal. Bidding to interview with a specific firm early is a sign of genuine interest in that firm, something all firms look for in candidates.
Students should be aware of both early interview programs and traditional OCI programs. Additionally, more firms are accepting applications prior to either process. To maximize the odds of securing your desired 2L summer position, you should begin your research early—possibly even before spring semester exams 1L year—and be aware of all the tools at your disposal. Vault Law provides a Summer Associate Resource Center, where students can find quick, easy access to insider information about top summer programs through the firm tiles, as well as useful information on resumes, interviewing, and key considerations in the Vault Law articles at the bottom of the Resource Center. Law firm profiles on Vault also contain useful information like when the firm begins accepting applications on the firm's summer program tab. Having this type of information available as you begin your research can help you narrow down those firms on which you want to focus your early efforts.
In the absence of more universal guidelines from NALP, each school has put in place its own rules about student interactions with potential employers, but it is becoming increasingly likely that both networking events and formal recruiting events will be earlier and earlier on the calendar than they have ever been before. Check with your school's career services office to understand exactly when you can begin reaching out to employers (and they to you). Generally speaking, the earlier and more consistently you show interest in a firm, the more likely you are to receive an offer from them, so pay attention. The first semester of law school can—to put it mildly—be an overwhelming time, but it pays to have the goal of that first offer in mind from the very outset, and to act accordingly.