BY KELLY BROWN
The Dec. 15 deadline for accepting or declining firm offers is rapidly approaching, and most Harvard Law students have already chosen who will be wining and dining them this summer. The hemming and hawing of November has evolved into December’s perfunctory responses in a third round of interviews as colleagues query, “Why Davis Polk? Why Ropes?” “Why Los Angeles, and not New York?” “Why a firm-I thought you wanted to defend orphaned Afghani juvenile delinquents?”
“I’m still vacillating between [two D.C. firms] and imagine I will continue doing so until I am forced to call one [firm] and reject them,” said 2L Mysti Kofford, just days before the deadline. She said she would be splitting her summer between Quinn Emmanuel in N.Y. and the yet unknown firm in Washington, D.C.
The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) sets the industry-wide deadlines for accepting and declining offers from the majority of large firms participating in on-campus recruiting. By Dec. 1, candidates must have narrowed their choice of firms to three. By Dec. 15, students must have responded to all offers.
Some students made their decision quickly. Andrea Glen said she knew she would choose Debevoise & Plimpton in N.Y. when she received an offer from them, adding, “I waited a week before accepting to make sure I wasn’t making an impulsive decision.”
NALP guidelines allow an applicant to hold an offer open until April, pending a public interest employer’s response, but the HLS website warns students to do this only under unusual circumstances.
HLS students who have previously shown a commitment to public interest work frequently flock to large private firms during their 2L summer. Some say they are looking for a way to pay for their final year of law school. Others assert that they are simply experimenting with various career options. But many are wholly ready to commit to the private sector, at least for a little while.
“Every so often I have a moment where I…sort of marvel at the fact I will earn in a summer more than many people earn in a year,” Kofford admitted. “But I’m looking at this as just a summer job-a chance to explore options and get some training. I haven’t at all abandoned the idea that I might go into public interest at some point.”
Noah Popp readily admitted to harboring qualms about accepting a big firm offer from Arnold & Porter in D.C. Popp spent last summer at the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice.
“[Arnold & Porter is] a firm that defends big corporations, including Phillip Morris,” Popp said. “I’m not too happy about that.” Popp decided a few weeks after callbacks to accept a place in the firm’s summer class, however. He cited “quirky, interesting” coworkers and a “great pro bono practice” as the major draws.
“I definitely had some ‘sellout’ issues, but I think the experience working at the firm over the summer will help me decide how to resolve them in the long-term,” Popp added.
Top criteria for selecting a workplace generally include firm prestige, practice area, and personnel. Other oft-cited factors include training programs, bonus systems, attitudes towards billable hours, governmental connections, and diversity. Glen found the climate at Debevoise in N.Y. to be a supportive one for professional women.
“And I caught glimpses of what seems like a really great art collection,” she noted with a smile.
Many HLS students view the summer stint at least partly as a 10-week holiday. “I picked Latham for many reasons,” said Danny Benavides, who accepted his offer from Latham & Watkins on the spot. Besides the freedom to sample multiple practice areas as a junior associate, Benavides said he was looking forward to the firm’s “frequent social events” and “really cool young people.”
There are the usual downers. Glen noted that associates at Debevoise used their Blackberries throughout her interview lunch. But some issues are even more fundamental.
“Honestly, I’m not that excited about New York City,” Kofford said.