The landscape of Biglaw recruiting is rapidly changing amid COVID-19. As law schools struggle with teaching students amid a pandemic, “normal” expectations have been thrown out the window. One of the biggest questions for many law students is what will happen with summer associateships.
While Biglaw firms are still contemplating what to do with 2Ls who have accepted offers for this summer’s programs, 1Ls are also wondering what’s going on. Summer associate interviewing starts nearly a year before students are slated to start at the firms, with the pre-coronavirus trend being to push those dates earlier and earlier. But in an email to students, Columbia Law School announced they’re pushing back their on-campus recruitment program until January 2021.
Columbia has decided to make that move because the law school’s spring semester is being graded on a pass/fail basis. Without a change to their recruitment calendar, students would be interviewing based only one one semester’s worth of grades. In order to better serve students that may need more than a semester to acclimate to law school, the new recruitment schedule will allow Biglaw firms to make hiring decisions with knowledge of the students’ Fall 2020 grades.
And Skadden, at least, is likely on board. Gavin White, global hiring partner at that firm already noted the ways the move to a pass/fail system will likely impact the summer associate opportunities students will have:
“Unless we change the timetable for hiring, you are hiring off of one semester of grades,” he said. “That probably hurts the students who have a less-than-stellar first semester, but otherwise would have been able to show an improvement for the second semester. They are sort of being robbed of that opportunity. That’s something we look at at—particularly students who don’t come from a privileged background may have a slower start at law school, but they figure it out in the second semester.”
And White suggested the exact move that Columbia has made:
“If you only have one semester of grades, it’s hard to get a meaningful and realistic assessment of someone’s academic performance,” White said. “What I would really like to see is schools move on-campus interviews into January and February, where we would have 2L fall grades.”
And the email from Marta Ricardo, Columbia’s career services dean, also notes that the move was based on “feedback from many employers,” so hopefully the move will not negatively impact the employment opportunities for Columbia students. Now we just have to see if the move is matched by any other elite law schools.
Read the full email from Columbia on the next page.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).
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