Interpretations
Principles & Standards Interpretations

(updated March 4, 2014)

The NALP Ethics and Standards Advisory Group is responsible for the implementation and interpretation of the NALP Principles & Standards for Law Placement and Recruitment Activities. The Advisory Group reviews the Principles & Standards in light of prevailing practices and concerns, recommending revisions to the membership as necessary. The Advisory Group also works to educate legal employers and law schools about the terms of and reasons for these guidelines. Clarifications of the guidelines are compiled here to foster greater understanding and compliance.

  1. Calculating the 28 Day Period
  2. When an Offer Acceptance Deadline Falls on a Weekend or a Holiday
  3. Five Offer Limit
  4. Extension of Offer Deadlines
  5. Requesting an Extension Pending a Significant Other's Plans
  6. Holding Offers Open Pending a Public Interest Job Search
  7. Permanent Job Offers to First Year Clerks
  8. Exploding Offers
  9. Waiting List
  10. Application of Offer/Acceptance Deadlines for Positions Following Judicial Clerkships
  11. Cold or Fake Offers
  12. Signing Bonuses
  13. Extending Summer Employment into the Fall Semester (UNDER REVIEW - 9/2014)
  14. 1L Student Employer Contact Prior to December 1
  15. Handling First Year Resumes Received Before December 1
  16. Responsibilities of Employers, Candidates and Law Schools Regarding the Use of the Internet in the Recruiting Process
  17. OCI Technology and Fairness Issues
  18. Headhunter Relationships with Students
  19. Employer Treatment of Confidential Student Information
  20. Offers Prior to the Commencement of Fall Interview Programs
  21. Releasing Offers
  22. Using a Reaffirmation Provision

1. Calculating the 28 Day Offer Period

Q. How is the 28 day period calculated?

A. The 28 day offer period begins on the day following the date of the offer letter. For example, if the offer letter is dated September 2, day one of the 28 days is September 3, and the offer will expire at the close of business on September 30 (unless September 30 is a Saturday, Sunday or holiday in which case the offer should be extended to the next business day. See the next interpretation: When an Offer Acceptance Deadline Falls on a Weekend or Holiday). Employers are encouraged to include the actual offer expiration date in the offer letter.

2. When an Offer Acceptance Deadline Falls on a Weekend or a Holiday

Q. What if the offer acceptance deadline falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday?

A. When an offer acceptance deadline date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, the deadline should be extended to the next business day.

3. Five Offer Limit

Q. How many offers for employment may law student candidates hold open at any one time?

A. Consistent with Principles & Standards Part V A.3, "a candidate should not hold open more than five offers of employment at any one time. For each offer received that places a candidate over the offer limit, the candidate should, within one week of receipt of the excess offer, release an offer."

Candidates interviewing in more than one market might temporarily exceed five open offers but should not hold more than a reasonable number of offers in any one market. Candidates in this situation should consult with their career services office in determining a reasonable number of offers.

In accordance with NALP Principles & Standards Part III D.2.: "In fairness to both employers and peers, candidates should act in good faith to decline promptly offers for interviews and employment which are no longer being seriously considered." Candidates should always expeditiously release offers they have no expectation of accepting.

4. Extension of Offer Deadlines

Q. May a candidate request an extension of the offer acceptance deadline?

A. Yes. Employers are not required by the NALP Standards for the Timing of Offers and Decisions to automatically extend an offer of employment past the response date. As a matter of practice, however, NALP recommends that employers consider seriously requests for extensions made by candidates with offers. Employers are encouraged to be reasonable in their decisions to grant extensions, and similarly, student candidates are encouraged to be reasonable in making such requests. The length of the extension may vary depending on the circumstances of the employer and the candidate. Offers which are not accepted or renegotiated by the offer acceptance deadline expire. Even though law schools advise students of their obligations under the Principles & Standards, employers are strongly encouraged to place language in the offer letter clearly defining the offer period and response deadline.

See NALP Principles & Standards, Part V.A.2.

5. Requesting an Extension Pending a Significant Other's Plans

Q. Can a law student candidate coordinate his/her employment decision with the plans of a significant other whose decision as to location cannot be made until after the candidate's decision date?

A. Yes. A student can request an extension under the general extension provision (See NALP Principles & Standards, Part V.A.2). In situations in which a candidate's decision is directly affected by that of a spouse, other family member, or significant other whose options include multiple cities (e.g., awaiting employment decisions, graduate school admissions action, or medical residency assignment), employers expect candidates to narrow their choices to one per city, to candidly explain their situations to those employers, and to make individual arrangements with those employers regarding the offer periods and response deadlines.

6. Holding Offers Open Pending a Public Interest Job Search

Q. May a law student candidate hold open a private sector employer offer until the spring pending the results of a search for a public interest job?

A. Students who are actively pursuing positions with public interest or government organizations may request that an employer extend the deadline to accept the employer's offer until as late as April 1. Students may hold open only one offer in such circumstances. See NALP Principles & Standards, Part V.B.2 & C.2

Law student candidates should always expeditiously release offers they have no expectation of accepting.

NALP encourages employers to cooperate with such requests. Some law schools explicitly require employers to permit students to hold offer(s) open for the purpose of completing a public interest job search. Candidates and employers should work together to make arrangements to suit individual public interest job seeker's circumstances.

7. Permanent Job Offers to First Year Clerks

Q. How do the NALP Standards for the Timing of Offers and Decisions apply to permanent job offers made to students who worked for the employer as first year clerks?

A. Offers made to law students who are now in their final year of law school and who worked for the employer during any preceding summer are treated in the same way as offers made to law students who worked during the preceding summer. That is, offers made to candidates previously employed by them should be held open for 28 days following the date of the offer letter or until at least October 1 of the candidate's final year of law school, whichever is later. Offers of permanent employment made to candidates now in their second year should remain open until October 1 of the candidate's final year of law school.

See NALP Principles & Standards, Part V.B.

8. Exploding Offers

Q. May an employer make an offer under the condition that the offer remains open only until the target number of acceptances is reached, at which point the offer is withdrawn (explodes)?

A. No. NALP members are expected to adhere to the provisions of the NALP Principles & Standards specifying that offers shall remain open at least until the applicable response deadlines. NALP understands that employers affected by economic pressures or uncertainties cannot accommodate a higher than targeted number of acceptances. In the same spirit, it remains essential that students seeking employment have adequate opportunity to investigate their options and should not be pressured to make decisions in advance of the prescribed dates. Employers can manage the offer process to increase the predictability and flow of information consistent with the Principles & Standards. Candidates are expected to accept or release offers or negotiate an extension of the response date by the applicable deadline. Offers which are not accepted or renegotiated by the offer deadline expire.

9. Waiting List

Q. May an employer establish a waiting list of students who are advised that they remain under serious consideration and will receive offers if positions become available?

A. Yes, employers may establish a waiting list or similar category of strong candidates. NALP considers this a good way to inform candidates of the status of their applications and to convey the employer's interest. Offers can be extended once the employer receives decisions from other candidates or determines its staffing needs. Employers may want to advise candidates holding offers that other students are on a waiting list and would appreciate their notifying the employer of their decisions as soon as possible.

10. Application of Offer/Acceptance Deadlines for Positions Following Judicial Clerkships

Q. Are students with judicial clerkships required to respond to employment offers in the fall of their third year in law school or in the fall of the final year of their clerkship?

A. The NALP Principles & Standards apply specifically to students, but as a matter of policy it seems appropriate for a comparable timetable to apply to persons entering clerkships. In keeping with the goal that candidates have an opportunity to compare opportunities before making their decision, NALP suggests that offers be held open until October 1 of the final clerkship year, assuming the judge permits clerks to hold offers open or to make a commitment during the clerkship. An increasing number of judges prohibit employment commitments until the completion of the clerkship to avoid conflict of interest complications. In such cases employers may maintain contact with candidates as appropriate and encourage them to make employment inquiries at the conclusion of the judicial clerkship.

11. Cold or Fake Offers

Q. It is reported that some employers give offers to summer associates with the understanding that the offer will not be accepted. What is NALP's view of this practice?

A. NALP does not condone this unethical practice. Whether initiated by students to appear more attractive to future employers or by employers to enhance their offer ratios, the practice is fraudulent and unprofessional. NALP suggests that employers adopt a standard policy of extending or confirming offers in writing, signed by a representative of the organization, so that only legitimate offers are made.

12. Signing Bonuses

Q. May employers offer signing bonuses that decline or evaporate according to the date of acceptance of the offer of employment?

A. This type of signing bonus violates the letter and spirit of the Principles & Standards. Part IV establishes the general principle that employers should refrain from any activity that may adversely affect the ability of candidates to make an independent and considered decision. The section goes on to provide specifically that employers should not offer special inducements to persuade candidates to accept offers of employment earlier than is customary or prescribed under the circumstances.

Signing bonuses or other benefits that require a decision in advance of the dates in Part V or that vary according to the date of acceptance are considered special inducements and violate this provision.

Note: This interpretation does not apply to other bonuses or benefits that are equal for all candidates regardless of when they accept their offers.

See NALP Principles & Standards, Part IV.F.

13. Extending Summer Employment into the Fall Semester

Q. Should an employer agree to a full-time student's request to carry his or her full-time summer employment into the law school's fall semester?

A. In light of the adoption of  the New ABA Standards and Rules for the Approval of Law Schools, NALP is temporarily suspending this Interpretation.  NALP's Ethics and Standards Advisory Group, in consultation with members and the Board, will review and revise the Interpretation in line with the revised standards.

14. 1L Student Employer Contact Prior to December 1

Q. Are there any exceptions to the restriction in Part V.D.2 on first-year students and employers not initiating contact with one another regarding summer employment prior to December 1 and employers not interviewing or making offers to first year students prior to December 1?

A. NALP recognizes that there are a few federal entities that have deadlines for their summer programs prior to December 1 in order to accommodate their unique hiring procedures, including the extended background check process common in positions involving national security.   Accordingly, NALP grants an exception to Part V.D.2. to allow 1Ls to apply for these discrete summer programs and for employers with such timing constraints to interview and make offers prior to December 1.  NALP also acknowledges that from time to time there may be other similar discrete programs that have application deadlines for 1Ls prior to December 1; NALP recommends that CSOs exercise their professional judgment in addressing those opportunities on a case-by-case basis.

15. Handling First Year Resumes Received Before December

Q. How can employers best handle first year resumes received before December 1?

A. First semester first year students should not initiate contact with employers prior to December 1. Employers can demonstrate respect for that principle by not reviewing any application once they identify it as that of a first year student.
Some employers return such applications with a standard letter advising students to reapply after December 1 or such later date as the employer prefers. Other employers notify students that the resume has been set aside and that no first year applications will be considered until December 1 or later. Many law schools encourage employers to let them know if any of their students apply before December 1; those schools that do so are encouraged to state this policy in their materials for employers.

See NALP Principles & Standards, Part V.D.2.

16. Responsibilities of Employers, Candidates and Law Schools Regarding the Use of the Internet in the Recruiting Process

Q. What are the responsibilities of employers, candidates and law schools regarding the use of information on the Internet during the recruiting process?

A. Employers should use valid, job related criteria when evaluating candidates. Information learned about candidates on the Internet that has no predictive value with respect to employment performance, should not be relied upon by employers in the hiring process. If an employer obtains information on the Internet about a candidate that may have predictive value with respect to employment performance, the employer should make good faith efforts to determine the accuracy and reliability of the source of such information prior to using that information in evaluating the candidate.

Candidates should learn as much as possible about target employers and the nature of their positions. When conducting research into employers on the Internet, candidates should make good faith efforts to determine the accuracy and reliability of the source of the information they obtain prior to using that information in evaluating the employer.

Law schools should counsel students about the importance of maintaining a professional image on the Internet; the propriety of providing information on the Internet about fellow candidates and employers; and the importance of making good faith efforts to determine the accuracy and reliability of the source of information they obtain about employers on the Internet during the recruiting process.

See NALP Principles & Standards, Part II.C.2; Part III.A.2; and Part IV.E.3

17. OCI Technology and Fairness Issues

Q. Is it appropriate for schools that are using commercial services to schedule on-campus interviews to take into account whether an employer uses the school's preferred technological product when establishing that employer's interview dates?

A. No. Paragraph II.F. of NALP's Principles & Standards provides that "[p]rocedures to enable employers to conduct on-campus interviews, solicit direct applications, or collect student resumes should be designed for maximum efficiency and fairness" and Paragraph II.A.3 notes that "[p]referential treatment should not be extended to any student or employer." While technology is increasing the efficiency of both law schools and legal employers, it should not be a barrier to the fair administration of on-campus interview scheduling.

See NALP Principles & Standards, Part II, A.3 and F.

18. Headhunter Relationships with Students

Q. How should a career services office advise students approached by a headhunter?

A. Career services offices should educate students to rely on the career services office and its expertise in facilitating relationships with employers. The common practice among legal employers is to deal directly with students, or through the career services programs, to reach students. Some also prefer to deal directly with relatively junior candidates for lateral positions. Students need to understand the poor reception they would likely encounter if represented by a headhunter prior to graduation.

19. Employer Treatment of Confidential Student Information

Q. What obligation does an employer owe to students with respect to information about the student's record?

A. Reference requests and employee records are covered by federal and state law. In general, employers should develop a protocol for responding to reference requests and generally respond only with objective information (e.g., how long the student was employed, position, whether an offer was extended). Any additional information should be provided with great thought by a responsible representative of the employer. File information, such as transcripts and work evaluations, should be treated confidentially within the office and should not be shared with outsiders. It is also not advisable to comment on subjective matters such as personality or anecdotes that do not bear on work ability.

20.  Offers Prior to the Commencement of Fall Interview Program

Q. How long must an offer to a law student candidate not previously employed remain open if the offer is given prior to the start of a student's fall interview program?

A. In light of NALP's strong commitment to allowing candidates to make independent and considered decisions, offers made before a law school's fall interview program begins to a law student candidate not previously employed should not expire until at least 28 days from the first day of the law school's fall interview program.  Employers should contact the appropriate law school(s) to determine these dates.  See NALP Principles & Standards Part IV F. and Part V.

21.  Releasing Offers

Q. Are students required to contact employers to release offers?

A. Part V.A.2 states, "Candidates are expected to accept or release offers or request an extension by the applicable deadline."  Professional standards dictate that students contact employers to release their offers.

22.  Using a Reaffirmation Provision

Q:
How should an employer indicate its expectation that student candidates reaffirm their interest in the employer’s offer?

A:
If an employer chooses to implement a reaffirmation provision, the offer letter should state clearly that the student is expected to reaffirm his/her interest in the offer on or before X date.  In addition, the offer letter should also specify to whom the communication should be addressed and the method(s) by which the candidate should reply (e.g., e-mail, telephone).

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