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School and firm take lead on important first step to improve on-campus recruiting

By Hilary Hurd Anyaso

CHICAGO --- Northwestern University School of Law and the global law firm Jones Day announced today July 26 that the firm will conduct its on-campus interviews for 2011 summer associates in September instead of during the law school's official on-campus interviewing (OCI) program, which begins Aug. 11. In a move benefiting both students and law firms, Jones Day will conduct interviews on behalf of its 14 U.S. offices on Monday, Sept. 13. 

Jones Day joins Northwestern Law in the belief that the current recruitment system has created a competitive race among law schools and law firms to conduct on-campus interviews earlier. The result is an inefficient system that does not serve employers or student applicants well, according to the law school and law firm. 

"The current system discourages the efforts of law firms to learn about all the competencies (over and above grades) of potential associates," according to David Van Zandt, dean, Northwestern Law. "It also requires firms to make employment decisions and predictions about their hiring needs too far in advance of permanent start dates. 

"The compression of summer associate interviews in August is also problematic for students since it constrains their time to make sensible decisions about with whom to interview, to adjust interviewing techniques based on what they learn during the process, or to make sound decisions about offers of employment," said Van Zandt. "It contributes to a frequent lack of fit between graduates and the law firms, which inevitably leads to higher attrition levels for the firms."

"Taking this step with Northwestern will help show that a more balanced, less frenzied approach to on-campus recruiting is not only still possible, but indeed desirable for all concerned -- students, law schools and law firms," said Greg Shumaker, firmwide hiring partner at Jones Day. 

Jones Day, one of the largest employers of new law graduates in the country, with more than 2,500 lawyers, is consistently ranked as one of the best and most integrated law firms in the world.

Conducting OCI one month later will help to alleviate pressure Northwestern students feel from the rush of firms in August and will not prejudice Northwestern Law students' efforts to secure jobs at Jones Day. Jones Day intends to hire at least as many Northwestern students as it has in recent years and has committed to ensuring that Northwestern students will receive the same consideration as candidates from other peer schools for open positions.

Interested Northwestern students will also be given the opportunity to attend a reception with members of Jones Day's advisory committee, comprised of office and practice group leaders from the firm's 32 offices around the world, when that committee meets in Chicago on Sept. 22 and 23.  

"Northwestern is an important school in our recruiting efforts --- in the past five years alone, we've hired 29 Northwestern students as summer associates," said Shumaker. "In my travels to many law schools, the students at Northwestern have been among the most impressive, and I attribute a lot of that to its emphasis on admitting students with professional experience under their belts. We have found that Northwestern students frequently have what Jones Day is looking for: They are confident, mature future leaders of the legal profession who appreciate the value of hard work and a team approach to the practice of law." 

The purpose of this joint effort, said Van Zandt, is to explore alternative models, based on mutual trust, to improve the recruitment process in a way that makes sense for students as well as employers. Under its "Plan 2008: Preparing Great Leaders for the Changing World," Northwestern is the only law school that has undertaken such a comprehensive effort to understand the legal market by listening to those who employ and work with its graduates to determine what abilities and competencies its graduates require for success in that market.

Based on the findings and recommendations of Plan 2008, Northwestern seeks to inculcate in its graduates through both admissions decisions and program initiatives the foundational competencies that are at the heart of the plan and are necessary for success in a legal career -- communication, teamwork, strategic understanding, basic quantitative skills, cross-cultural work, project management and leadership. A key part of the plan is an innovative Accelerated JD Program, which Northwestern initiated last year.

Van Zandt and Shumaker agreed that this innovative interviewing approach at Northwestern is testament to its many high-caliber students and reflects Jones Day's confidence that the firm can recruit broadly from Northwestern and focus on competencies and leadership skills in addition to more traditional indicators of academic achievement.