The Year That OCI Forgot: Biglaw Firms Hand Out Early Offers

The Year That OCI Forgot: Biglaw Firms Hand Out Early Offers

One thing that’s already different this year: Unlike in past years, big law firms are beginning to offer summer associate positions before the official On-Campus Interview (OCI) period begins! As reported by Above the Law, Cravath Swaine & Moore, and Latham & Watkins have already extended offers to second-semester 1Ls for summer 2018 through their pre-OCI program, getting them to sign on the dotted line before anyone even has the chance to talk with competitors or negotiate. But are these offers as good as they seem? And will students be able to turn them down?

What is the early offers season?

Early offers season is the time in which big law firms offer jobs to associates during summer before they return to their on-campus interviews. This practice has been around for a long time, but it became much more common with the rise of social media recruiting and tech talent availability. The reasons why firms do this are twofold.

First, it helps bolster their staff with young talent before the competition really starts (especially for firms that do not have pre-existing pipelines) and also enables recruiters to see what prospects want from a job without having to go through the formal recruiting process. Second, some firms make early offers because they need warm bodies quickly, as staffing gaps are becoming more noticeable due to recent corporate restructuring and mass layoffs.

Who is making offers?

Rather than waiting for the Columbia Law School summer intern orientation program and company open houses to come around in a few months, firms are sending out offers so that they can secure their prime summer associate candidates before they start interviewing with other companies.

With New York’s bustling legal landscape, it would make sense that firms in the city have sent out more offers than usual. The biggest spike in offers seems to be at Southern law schools. Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor said that he has heard from many firms who are eager to send out early offers because of fear of a diminishing number of students coming out of top colleges.

How are they doing it?

For some firms, it starts by hiring more people at the top. This way, when their associates come back from the interview circuit and decide to go somewhere else because they want that to be their last stop before a judicial clerkship or a part-time gig in public service, somebody is waiting for their associate spots.

From here, it often moves on to summer associate offers. Some of these are handed out after orientation and not before – for those that do hand them out early, the reasoning is generally along the lines of doing so to have the incoming class take up some of the slack so that associates can have time to think things over while they’re in session – often leading up to OCI or just after. The takeaway?

Why are firms doing this?

Companies have been wanting to hire law school graduates from the very beginning, even before they start their careers. This way, corporations can get a hold of new grads that have been trained to do the work they need them for.

According to research, graduate hiring typically takes place just before summer associate offers, not during a time when students are available for interviews. Big law firms such as Cravath and Latham continue this trend because they want those in-house lawyers who will be with them for 10-15 years after graduation and usually these top legal eagles can only be offered during these critical recruitment periods.

Impact on law students

What once seemed like a distant possibility, the idea of accepting a summer associate offer while still interviewing for full-time jobs at law firms is becoming a reality.

A handful of law firms have already offered their summer associates before the annual On-Campus Interviewing period. With limited spots and high competition for them, this will be a common practice for law schools going forward. This comes as good news to students who are unsure about which firm they want to spend next summer working at. Students were always afraid that if they declined an offer from one firm and then were accepted by another,

they would end up spending their summers at home or looking for an internship instead. Now students can compare offers from multiple firms without fear that it could derail their careers.

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