The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) recently released its study on the hiring percentages for entry-level attorneys. The study concluded that offers for entry-level positions, while still very limited, rose 2% in 2014, for those who were summer associates in 2013. This 92% offer rate is hopeful compared to the 69% rate calculated in 2009. Although the amount of offers increased, the median size of the summer associate class stayed at a flat 5 for the third year in a row. With fewer people to make offers to, an even smaller group received most of the offers, causing the acceptance rates of those offers to drop 2% from 86% to 84%. Though it is improving, the percentages haven’t reached steady pre-recession levels. How can you improve your odds of entry-level employment?
1. Get Into the Small Group of Candidates. This is obvious, but it’s harder than you might imagine. A top rank within your class, a high GPA, and extracurricular programs such as law review and moot court are imperative. But being the best at your school isn’t enough. You’re competing with the nation, especially for those BigLaw jobs. Recruiters stated to NALP that the competition was fierce for the same small group of candidates. Choosing a school by rank may be crucial to this process, as top schools like Harvard carry a reputation and some of the burden for you as a candidate.
2. Get the Highly Coveted Summer Associate Position. The NALP reported that only 16% of law offices would return to the applicant pool made up of 3Ls who had not worked for them as a summer associate. This is down 3% from 2012, and drastically lower than the 53% in 2006. With this limited amount of opportunity, it is vital to not only acquire a summer associate position, but acquire one with a firm you want to start your career with (remember, this is a two-way street). Regardless of the impressive résumé you’ve established in section one, if you do not perform well during the interview, you may blow your opportunity. Brush up your interview skills and be prepared so you nail it!
3. Be the Best Associate in Your Program. You look good on paper. You can talk the talk. Now walk the walk. Your summer will be a perpetual interview for that permanent entry-level position. Take every professional and appropriate measure to stand out among your class. Make sure you are prepared for your midsummer associate review.