Employment hope, despite cooling in on-campus recruiting

The New York Times ran an article on Tuesday titled “Downturn Dims Prospects Even at Top Law Schools.” It was reported that at many top tier law schools, on-campus interviews are down by a third to a half compared with a year ago. Far fewer law firms are interviewing on campus, and those that remain are offering a reduced number of positions. Two second-year students, both with over $200K in debt, lament in the article that, absent an offer from a big law firm, they don’t know how they’ll manage.

KU Law has experienced a similar cooling in on-campus recruiting, as the number of our fall on-campus employers has fallen by over one-third from a total of 72 in the fall of 2008. Several employers that consistently recruit on campus will forego all on-campus interviewing in 2009-10. Others registered for fall interviews but later withdrew, citing economic uncertainty. There remains a small group of undecided employers. I anticipate that at least 10-12 will ultimately choose to participate in our fall program, so at best we’ll top out at approximately 50 fall on-campus employers.

The employers who do participate will be offering fewer summer clerkship opportunities than in past years, and the acceptance rate of their offers will be high.

Students who do not receive offers from on-campus employers should not despair. KU Law has always offered a top-notch, affordable legal education, and most students accrue far less debt than their peers at NYU and Penn who are quoted in the Times. In uncertain economic times, graduating from law school with a manageable debt load is of heightened importance. When jobs are less abundant, it pays to have the financial flexibility to accept a summer or full-time position that offers a good opportunity to gain marketable experience, if not a fat paycheck.

To weather this economic storm, students will be encouraged to gain experience through our excellent law school clinics, with small and mid-sized law firms and government agencies, at corporations where their legal skills may be viewed as a plus, and with judges.

It is also important to note two facts:

(1) Since 2000, the percentage of KU Law grads who attribute their full-time job to a fall on-campus interview has averaged just under 20 percent.
(2) Law firms in the 2-25 attorney range have accounted for over 50 percent of law firm hiring of KU Law grads in six of the last nine years.

Fall on-campus interviewing is not the only way to find a legal job after graduation. It represents a piece of the overall puzzle. And large law firms, even in a robust economy, do not represent the entirety of a student’s employment options.

Todd Rogers
Assistant Dean for Career Services