Trends in Early Offer Activity Prior to OCI

NALP Bulletin, July 2020

Since 2015, when NALP began collecting data on early offer activity within its annual Survey of Legal Employers on Recruiting, the total number of early offers reported nationally by firms increased from 370 offers in 2015 to nearly 1,300 offers in 2019, almost quadrupling during this period of time. However, as seen in Table 1, the overall percentage of offices/firms that recruited prior to on-campus interviews (OCI) was relatively steady, hovering between 26% and 29% from 2015-2018, until jumping up to nearly 35% in 2019. Differences in firm size are apparent, with firms of 701 or more lawyers being the most likely to recruit prior to OCI and firms of 250 or fewer lawyers being the least likely to recruit prior to OCI. Regional differences are also noted, with offices in the Northeast having the highest percentage of firms participating in early OCI, while offices in the West/Rocky Mountain and Southeast regions have the lowest percentages of firms participating in early OCI.

Chart 1 depicts the average and median number of early offers made and the percentage of early offers accepted from 2015-2019. While the median number of early offers per office/firm has only increased from two to three offers during this time period, the average number of early offers has more than doubled from 4.3 offers in 2015 to 9.1 offers in 2019. Offer acceptance rates have remained stable at 39-40% since 2016.

Table 2 and Table 3 show this same trend information broken down by firm size and region. In general, offices in firms of 701 or more lawyers had the highest median and average number of early offers, while offer acceptance rates fluctuated from year to year among most firm sizes, with the exception of the largest firms. By region, the Northeast typically had the highest median and average number of early offers; however, offer acceptance rates varied by region from year to year. Acceptance rates in the Northeast were the most stable overall, hovering in the mid-30s, and routinely fell below the overall national rate.

Trends in the types of students that are most likely to receive early offers are illustrated in Chart 2. Overall, top candidates have been the main target of offices/firms for early OCI offers, with 79% reporting that they made early offers to top candidates in 2019, but diverse candidates were a close second at 75%. Local candidates were also attractive candidates to firms, with nearly 58% of firms that made early offers in 2019 reporting that they made at least some of those offers to local candidates.

While trend data like this can often help suggest future market behavior, because of the current pandemic and the attendant economic fallout, as well as the fact that at many schools OCI has already been moved or remains a moving target, it is impossible to say with any certainty what early offer activity prior to OCI will look like going forward.


Chart 1: Early Offer Volumes and Outcomes, 2015-2019




Table 1: Percentage of Offices/Firms Recruiting Prior to OCI by Firm Size and Region, 2015-2019

  2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Total — All Employers 34.6% 27.2% 26.4% 28.6% 26.0%
By Number of Lawyers Firm-Wide
250 or Fewer 20.8 5.0 10.6 13.8 6.9
251-500 21.6 14.6 18.6 12.2 29.6
501-700 27.3 42.4 26.9 37.8 23.7
701+ 45.1 39.3 36.9 43.0 39.2
By NALP Region
Northeast 44.0 40.0 39.1 44.1 46.4
Mid-Atlantic 32.9 31.8 17.7 31.0 36.7
Southeast 23.8 20.6 13.8 10.8 14.3
Midwest 29.3 23.8 22.8 25.0 17.0
West/Rocky Mountain 22.4 13.5 21.7 22.9 16.2

Source: Survey of Legal Employers on Recruiting, 2015-2019
Note: Early OCI does not include 1Ls who will return for some or all of their 2L summer.


Table 2: Early Offer Volumes and Outcomes by Firm Size, 2015-2019

Year 250 or Fewer Lawyers 251-500 Lawyers 501-700 Lawyers 701+ Lawyers
Median # of Offers Average # of Offers % of Offers Accepted Median # of Offers Average # of Offers % of Offers Accepted Median # of Offers Average # of Offers % of Offers Accepted Median # of Offers Average # of Offers % of Offers Accepted
2019 3 2.5 22.2% 2 4.8 29.9% 2 5.0 50.0% 4 10.9 39.9%
2018 NA NA NA 3 3.8 40.0% 3 6.4 36.2% 3 9.7 40.4%
2017 2 2.0 56.3% 3 4.1 35.8% 4.5 7.0 42.9% 3 9.9 38.4%
2016 1 1.7 52.9% 1 2.4 36.4% 3 8.5 43.2% 3 6.8 37.8%
2015 1 1.4 14.3% 1.5 3.7 27.1% 2 3.0 40.7% 2.5 4.9 39.2%

Source: Survey of Legal Employers on Recruiting, 2015-2019
Note: Early OCI does not include 1Ls who will return for some or all of their 2L summer.
NA: Not available because there were not at least five offices/firms reporting early offers.


Table 3: Early Offer Volumes and Outcomes by Region, 2015-2019

Year Northeast Mid-Atlantic Southeast Midwest West/Rocky Mountain
Median # of Offers Average # of Offers % of Offers Accepted Median # of Offers Average # of Offers % of Offers Accepted Median # of Offers Average # of Offers % of Offers Accepted Median # of Offers Average # of Offers % of Offers Accepted Median # of Offers Average # of Offers % of Offers Accepted
2019 6 19.8 35.0% 2 3.4 38.7% 2 5.1 35.4% 3 4.0 38.2% 2 3.1 51.9%
2018 6 18.1 37.0% 3 3.4 30.8% 2 3.8 34.2% 2 2.8 64.3% 2 3.5 47.8%
2017 5 16.0 32.9% 2 3.4 48.6% 1.5 2.5 70.0% 2 4.5 48.3% 2 2.9 38.5%
2016 2 10.8 34.7% 4 4.7 39.3% 3 4.1 44.8% 3 3.4 50.0% 1 2.5 43.8%
2015 4 7.4 35.3% 2 3.4 28.4% 2 2.3 33.3% 3 2.7 48.1% 1.5 2.0 62.5%

Source: Survey of Legal Employers on Recruiting, 2015-2019
Note: Early OCI does not include 1Ls who will return for some or all of their 2L summer.


Chart 2: Students Who Received Early Offers, 2015-2019
(Percentage of Offices/Firms Reporting Activity Prior to OCI)



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