Law School Placement

Published: Mar 10, 2009

Question: At my law school, should I rely on the placement office to help me get interviews or should I concentrate on doing it myself?

Bill and Chet: Two types of firms interview at law schools. The first is the kind of firm that cares primarily about grades and class standing. The cutoff may vary and may or may not be precisely defined. With some firms, only the top ten percent of a law school class need apply. Others establish a cutoff that is much lower. Still others don't have anything too precise in mind; they just want someone with strong academic credentials. Whatever the standard, the majority of students fall short.

If your grades are great, you'll probably love the type of firm that cares about transcripts. If your grades are average, you're likely to look for a firm that will evaluate you as a person, not a number. And so you take heart in the fact that a significant percentage of firms visiting your school do not openly profess an interest in such mundane matters as grades and class rank. But they nevertheless have to make snap judgments on the basis of very short twenty or thirty minute interviews. The judgments are necessarily subjective.

Some students thrive in this environment. They have good interviewing skills, which means they are articulate, personable, and - above all - avoid mistakes. A large number of students, however, are unable to distinguish themselves from the pack of job seekers, and they may go through the interviewing season unable to generate any significant interest on the part of firms. They wonder if there is any room for them in this profession.

If your school's placement system is not working for you, don't view the world through the eyes of your placement office. The firms visiting your school are limited in number and hardly representative of firms overall.

To remedy the placement office blues you will have to take the initiative and contact prospective employers directly. Things will take a little longer, you will have to work a little harder, and you may waste some time. The important thing to remember is that only a very small number of firms actually visit law schools to conduct interviews, and those that do are not necessarily representative of law firms in general.