Biglaw’s on-campus interview (OCI) process seems to start earlier and earlier each year, with fall interviews having crept into the summer. But as it turns out, some firms now seem eager to avoid OCI altogether with their own precruiting of eligible law students. In fact, just last year, Biglaw firms made more early offers than ever recorded by National Association for Law Placement — 23.3% of all offers to second-year students (3,145 offers, to be exact) came as a result of early recruiting.
NALP executive director Niki Gray refers to these precruiting measures as a “free market alternative” to OCI, which for some Biglaw firms, is working out smashingly. Law.com has additional details on how well it’s worked out for Wilson Sonsini, with its new Accelerated Consideration for Employment (ACE) program:
Through Wilson Sonsini’s early recruiting, law school applicants have tended to receive and accept offers at higher rates than candidates recruited through the traditional on-campus interviewing process, according to Cherie Beffa, the senior director of attorney recruiting at Wilson Sonsini. …
This year, after formally launching its ACE program, Wilson Sonsini had an offer acceptance rate of 57%, above the industry average of 41%, per NALP. Further, the ACE acceptances represent 68% of the firm’s 2024 summer class, according to Beffa.
“ACE accomplished what we were hoping: students who knew that they wanted to be at Wilson Sonsini were able to stand out and show us their excitement about our firm specifically,” Beffa said. “They secured their summer employment early and were able to move their focus back to their classes, journals … and other important law school experiences.
As precruiting offers are handed out, more and more firms wish to do the same to fill their summer classes early. “It’s a bit of a FOMO effect,” Gray told Law.com. “There are firms who believe they need to do this to get to the top talent so they’re not competing with other firms in OCI, and the more firms that do this to feel competitive, the more other firms join in.”
Goodwin Procter has also gotten in on the early recruiting action, with Ashley Nelson, the managing director of the firm’s legal recruitment department noting that the firm is “committed to recruiting top talent, including pre-recruiting if necessary.” Nelson went on to say that the firm used precruiting to hire more than half of its 2023 summer associates.
Meanwhile, firms like Sheppard Mullin are getting nervous about the amount of early interviews that are going on. Caroline Menes, the firm’s director of legal recruiting, told Law.com that she was concerned because “that is [hundreds] of students I won’t have the chance to impress.” Because Sheppard Mullin doesn’t want to “get shut out of the race for talent,” the firm is going to give some more thought to precruiting law students next year.
Is your firm using early interviews outside of the OCI process to recruit new talent? If it’s not, perhaps it should be, because this is where entry-level recruitment seems to be headed.
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter and Threads or connect with her on LinkedIn.