The Talent

September 3, 2009 3:10 PM

New NALP Commission to Examine Changes in Recruiting Process

Posted by Ross Todd

Responding to the challenging legal job market, the NALP board has formed a new commission that plans to "engage in a holistic nationwide conversation" to review the current recruitment model of law firms. The decision to form the commission was reported to NALP's membership on August 28.

"We're going to weigh all the factors to get a good broad spectrum of voices at the table," says current NALP board president LeaNora Ruffin of the effort to name members to the commission.

As soon as this fall, members of the commission will consider the current state of recruiting and the traditional on-campus interview schedule, in addition to reviewing best practices from industries outside the law. The agenda for next spring includes a reexamination of the NALP Principles and Standards--which outline, among other things, how firms make offers to students and the amount of time law students have to respond to job offers. (We've included the board's announcement about the commission below.)

In addition to forming the commission, the board has set up a suggestion box where NALP members can leave comments for the board and the commission. To stoke the suggestion box, the board has posed the following question to its members: Is the current early interview week, which typically takes place in August following the first year of law school, still a viable recruiting model? NALP members are encouraged to share their thoughts by sending an e-mail to where feedback and comments will remain anonymous.

"We're trying to make sure that we're keeping on top of the issues that our membership is facing," Ruffin tells The Am Law Daily. Ruffin is assistant dean for career development at Widener University School of Law; her term as NALP board president ends this spring, at which point Carol Sprague, director of associate and alumni relations and attorney recruiting at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, assumes the presidency.

In light of the new commission, we reached out to Vinson & Elkins hiring partner Thomas Leatherbury. Earlier this year, he drafted a plan asking law schools to consider moving back 2L recruiting to early 2010--a plan that, as we reported, was not very well received by law schools at the time.

"It really doesn’t make sense to make our decisions as far in advance as we make them now," Leatherbury says. V&E has eliminated seven schools and job fairs from its recruitment schedule and will instead solicit resumes from those sources. "What most firms are doing now is scaling back their summer class with the knowledge that if they overcorrect and under-hire, there probably will be a very active third-year market next year," Leatherbury says.

We'll continue following all this carefully and bringing you more news on how the current recruiting season plays out, and on the commission's plans for changes in the future. We're happy to see that best-practices will be considered--it's something The American Lawyer has suggested in the past. In fact, we'll take this moment to recommend an article to the newly formed commission's members written by former American Lawyer reporter Elizabeth Goldberg two years ago, "Is This Any Way to Recruit Associates?." Although descriptions of the speed-dating atmosphere at on-campus recruiting sessions is somewhat dated, Goldberg compiled an impressive survey of best-recruiting practices from businesses outside the law, and outlined how law firms in the U.K. employ a more thorough hiring process.

NALP Board Announcement:

The NALP Board is pleased to announce the formation of a Commission on Recruiting in the Legal Profession. Given the complexity of the factors involved, this Commission will work in two phases. During Phase I, beginning this fall, Commission members will be charged with reviewing the current legal recruitment model, and will engage in a holistic nationwide conversation regarding issues including, but not limited to, the timing of 2L/3L interviewing and the viability and effects of a potential change to the interviewing time frame on large-firm recruiting as well as on government, public interest, and small/medium firm recruiting. Recruitment models outside of our industry will be considered for best-practices. During Phase II, likely to begin spring 2010, the Commission will examine the NALP Principles and Standards in light of the current dialogue about a potentially shifting recruiting paradigm. The Commission will report out to the membership at various intervals in order to provide real-time information on the results of its outreach and discussions. Additional information about the Commission membership and its scope of work will be forthcoming.

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