(updated March 4, 2014)
NALP Ethics and Standards Work Group in the Experienced Professionals Section is responsible for the
implementation and interpretation of the NALP Principles &
Standards for Law Placement and Recruitment Activities. The Work Group reviews the Principles & Standards in light of prevailing
practices and concerns, recommending revisions to the membership as
necessary. The Work 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.
- Calculating the 28 Day Period
- When an Offer Acceptance Deadline Falls on a Weekend or a Holiday
- Five Offer Limit
- Extension of Offer Deadlines
- Requesting an Extension Pending a Significant Other's Plans
- Holding Offers Open Pending a Public Interest Job Search
- Permanent Job Offers to First Year Clerks
- Exploding Offers
- Waiting List
- Application of Offer/Acceptance Deadlines for Positions Following Judicial Clerkships
- Cold or Fake Offers
- Signing Bonuses
- Extending Summer Employment into the Fall Semester
- 1L Student Employer Contact Prior to December 1
- Handling First Year Resumes Received Before December 1
- Responsibilities of Employers, Candidates and Law Schools Regarding the Use of the Internet in the Recruiting Process
- OCI Technology and Fairness Issues
- Headhunter Relationships with Students
- Employer Treatment of Confidential Student Information
- Offers Prior to the Commencement of Fall Interview Programs
- Releasing Offers
- Using a Reaffirmation Provision
1. Calculating the 28 Day Offer Period
Q. How is the 28 day period calculated?
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
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?
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?
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?
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
See NALP Principles & Standards, Part V.A.2.
5. Requesting an Extension Pending a Significant Other's Plans
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
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
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
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
7. Permanent Job Offers to First Year Clerks
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
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
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
10. Application of Offer/Acceptance Deadlines for Positions Following Judicial Clerkships
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
11. Cold or Fake Offers
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?
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
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
See NALP Principles & Standards, Part IV.F.
13. Extending Summer Employment into the Fall Semester
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. An employer should not agree to
such a request. The NALP Principles for employers provide that
employers should respect the policies, procedures, and legal
obligations of individual law schools. Permitting students to work
full-time when they are due to return for classes would be inconsistent
with that obligation. In addition, law students and legal employers are
expected to abide by the ABA Suggestions Related to Part-Time
Employment of Law Students, which limit a full-time student's
employment during the school semester to 20 hours per week. Failure to
comply with these provisions may jeopardize the student's credit for
law school courses or right to sit for the bar and the employer's right
to use placement services at the student's law school.
See NALP Principles & Standards, Part IV.B.; ABA Suggestions
Related to Part-Time Legal Employment of Law Students (approved
December 5, 1987, by the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education
and Admissions to the Bar).
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?
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
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
What are the responsibilities of employers, candidates and law schools
regarding the use of information on the Internet during the recruiting
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
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
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
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?
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?
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).