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September 4, 2008 3:58 PM

A New, Tighter Deadline For Considering Next Summer's Jobs

Posted by Ed Shanahan

Column by Lynne Traverse.

It's a whole new world for 2L students lining up now for 2010 summer associate positions. In previous years, the National Association for Law Placement set deadlines for accepting offers for these jobs that extended until December 1. This year--responding to voices throughout its membership and a task force appointed to examine the issue--the NALP is testing a novel, yet often-suggested alternative: rolling deadlines that expire 45 days from the offer-letter date. (For more on this subject, read "In or Out?" from the September issue of The American Lawyer.)

While 2L students may be hearing scary stories from students in previous classes, the impact of this change could well be positive. One example: No longer will students be able to hold on to offers for three months, in essence hoarding available positions and preventing students who interview later in the season from opportunities. 

At the same time, the new timeline is definitely tight for those who conduct searches in more than one region while also juggling law review, mock trial, demanding class loads, and other obligations. Even so, this is probably the last time in your life that you'll have up to 45 days--a luxurious length of time in the professional world to make an important career decision.

So, here's what to keep in mind to make the best of the situation:

•Develop a personal deadline-tracking system. Remember: Offers not accepted, declined, or extended via negotiation by the deadline date will expire.

•Your school's career development office may or may not assist with deadline tracking, but in any event can only assist if they know your personal deadlines and issues, so keep them informed. This is particularly important when juggling geographically broad searches.

•Employers also may or may not assist with reminders. It's best to assume that they won't hold your hand. On the flip side, obtaining the information necessary to make a timely decision is critical, so don't be shy about asking questions.

*Because there won't be time for leisurely follow-up visits in late October, any second visits to get additional information should be scheduled quickly.

*Although encouraged to do so, employers under no requirement to grant extensions. You can maximize your chances for an extension by asking in a timely way--at least ten days before your deadline. Asking on deadline day makes you look unprofessional and scattered. And have good reasons in hand--a job search in multiple locations, or a spouse who is also conducting a search. One exception is if you are searching for a public interest job. NALP's principles and standards strongly urge employers to allow students to hold one offer open until April 1 while a student seeks a public interest position.

*Despite the new timing, don't panic and accept the first offer. Explore as many options as you can. Once you accept an offer, it is a professional and ethical commitment, and you cannot change your mind. You will not have a successful experience if a rushed decision results in the wrong fit. This is your most important job search for the foreseeable future, and will affect your career for the next four to five years.

*Forty-five days is still an ample amount of time to choose rationally and wisely. Yes, it requires focus and diligence on your part, but it will also serve as great practice for future career moves. Good luck, and happy job hunting!

Lynne Traverse is a recruiting and professional development manager at Bryan Cave.

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