Working Glossary

Professional jargon abounds in the field of legal recruitment and law school career services. This glossary is designed to help those who are new to the plethora of acronyms and specialized terms.

Although somewhat inclusive, this brief glossary cannot feature every legal recruitment or lawyer professional development term or every law-related organization. NALP members are invited to submit suggest new terms for inclusion.

This glossary includes several acronyms for associations that may be particularly relevant for newcomers.  For a complete list of related associations see

AALS - Association of American Law Schools. An organization of law schools whose purpose is the improvement of the legal profession through legal education. This association serves as the law teachers' learned society and produces a monthly newsletter of teaching and administrative positions available at law schools nationwide.

AALSA/APALSA - Asian American Law Student Association/Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.

ABA - American Bar Association. Headquartered in Chicago, the ABA offers educational programs, publications, and services relating to all facets of the practice of law.

ABA Questionnaire - The ABA's annual process that collects student employment data from law schools and publishes school specific statistics on types of employment obtained by graduates each year. (See also ERSS.)

ACC - Association of Corporate Counsel.

ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act.

ADJUNCT PROFESSOR - A part-time faculty member who is generally also a practitioner.

ADR - Alternative Dispute Resolution. Methods other than going to court to solve problems among parties, including counseling, mediation and arbitration.

AILA – American Immigration Lawyers Association.

AILTO - American Institute for Law Training within the Office.

ALA - Association of Legal Administrators.

ALI CLE - the American Law Institute's CLE division, a nonprofit organization providing continuing professional education for lawyers.

ALFDP - The Association of Law Firm Diversity Professionals.

ALTERNATIVE CAREERS/LAW-RELATED CAREERS - Law-related and/or non-legal career opportunities for J.D. graduates other than the practice of law.

ANNUAL EDUCATION CONFERENCE - NALP's annual conference, offering a wide array of programming and including NALP's annual business meeting.

ARTICLING - In Canada, a law degree is not sufficient to practice law. Each Canadian province has a Law Society bar admission course and requirements for "articling." Many students article with the law firm at which they summered between their second and third year. The articling term is similar to an apprenticeship and is supervised and monitored by a qualified lawyer. The length of the articling term varies, although most are nine to twelve months.

ASIL – American Society of International Lawyers.

ASSOCIATE - A lawyer who is an employee, as opposed to an owner, of a law firm. (See also Partner or Shareholder.)

BAR EXAM - The licensing examination required to become a member of the bar. While individuals may earn a J.D. degree, they may not practice law until they have passed a state's bar examination. Most states offer the bar exam twice a year, in February and July. In Canada, a bar admission course (exam plus practical skills assessment) is required in addition to "articling" to be eligible for licensure.

BILLABLE HOURS - The time lawyers work on a project for a client that can be charged to the client. Most employers require an established number of billable hours per lawyer (e.g., 35 billable hours a week). The number of billable hours required is a major area of concern and inquiry for both students and practicing lawyers.

BLAWG – A blog focused on a legal topic. Great for researching practice areas or networking. The ABA publishes its Top 100 Blawgs list each year.

BLIND AD - A job posting in which the employer is not named. Interested applicants forward resumes to post office boxes and are therefore unable to contact the employer directly.

BLSA - Black Law Students Association.

BOOK AWARDS - In some schools, when students earn the highest grade in a particular class it is said they "booked" the course. Often schools or outside organizations provide awards to students who earn this distinction.

BRANCH OFFICES - Additional office locations beyond the law firm's traditional "home" office. Some law firms use "multi-office" terminology rather than defining one office as a headquarters.

BUCKLEY AMENDMENT - The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which guarantees that students have the right of access to inspect and review any and all official records, files, documents, and other materials created during the period the individual was enrolled as a student at the institution. With limited exceptions, no personally identifiable information from the educational records of a student may be disclosed to any third party by an official or employee of the institution without the written consent of the student.

CALLBACK/FLYBACK - The in-depth interview(s) students have in an employer's office, generally after a preliminary screening/OCI interview with the employer.

CALLBACK/FLYBACK WEEK - The period of time (usually between OCI and the beginning of classes) a law school encourages law firms to use for callback/flyback interviews.

CAREER SERVICES COMMITTEE - A committee of faculty and students who serve as a resource pool for career-related ideas and a sounding board for career services policy.

CARNEGIE REPORT: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching conducted a two-year study of legal education in the US and Canada, which was published in 2007 as "Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law"  (popularly known as the "Carnegie Report").  The report made provocative observations about the nature of legal education and the impact of traditional teaching methods, as well as recommendations for reform which provide the basis for much of the current discussion about changing the law school curriculum and approach to teaching.

CHAIRED FACULTY - Faculty members whose salaries are supplemented by private endowments to the institution where they work. Individuals holding chaired positions are generally regarded as specialists in the areas in which they teach.

CITY GROUP - An association of local recruitment and professional development administrators (and sometimes career services personnel) in a particular city. City groups enjoy a cooperative relationship with NALP although they are separate independent entities and not corporately affiliated with NALP.

CLASS RANK - Class rank reflects an individual's academic performance as compared to his/her classmates. Some schools have chosen not to rank all of their students. Even at schools that do not rank all students, those students earning various academic honors may well still be "ranked" in recognition of their academic achievements.

CLE - Continuing Legal Education. Additional education that lawyers take to stay abreast of current changes in the law. In some states, CLE courses are mandatory, especially if lawyers wish to designate themselves as specialists in particular areas of law. For a specialist, additional hours above the state's minimum number of CLE hours may be required to maintain a certified specialist designation.

CLEO - Council on Legal Education Opportunity. A program aimed at helping and encouraging economically and educationally disadvantaged students to enter law school and become members of the legal profession.

CLINICAL EDUCATION - Law school programs that provide students with practical and skills-oriented instruction. Under the supervision of a faculty member, students represent clients through specialized legal aid, prosecutorial, and defender clinics.

CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY - The ethical guidelines for lawyers in conducting their professional activities. The ABA's Model Code sets forth basic standards, but guidelines are promulgated by each state and may vary from the Model Code.

COLD OFFER - An offer of permanent employment given to summer associates with the understanding that it will not be accepted. NALP considers this practice unethical and does not condone its use.

CONSORTIUM - A consortium consists of several law schools (often in one geographic region) that work cooperatively in such areas as co-sponsorship of off-campus career fairs.

CONTRACT ATTORNEY/TEMPORARY ATTORNEY - Attorney hired for a specific project or for a finite period of time.

COST SHARING - In legal recruitment, the practice of employers sharing interview expenses for out-of-town interviewees. (See also HOST FIRM.)

DING LETTER/FLUSH LETTER - Slang for an employment rejection letter.

DIRECT CONTACT/RESUMES FORWARDED - Two services most career services offices make available to employers. Direct Contact indicates that students must send their own letter to the employer in response to a posted position. Resumes Forwarded indicates that the career services office collects resumes from interested students for an available position and mails them collectively to an employer on a pre-determined date.

DOG & PONY SHOW - Slang for recruiting trips during which law school career planning personnel promote their institutions to employers or employers promote their organizations to law schools.

EEOC - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC was established to work toward elimination of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability status in hiring, promoting, firing, wages, testing, training, apprenticeship, and all other conditions of employment.

EJW - Equal Justice Works (formerly NAPIL, National Association for Public Interest Law). An organization that works with student groups across the country to promote public service law through loan forgiveness programs, fellowships, educational programs, and an annual career fair.

ERSS - Employment Report and Salary Survey. NALP's annual process that collects student employment data from law schools and provides aggregate information on salaries and types of employment obtained by graduates each year, published annually as NALP's Jobs & J.D.'s report. (See also ABA Questionnaire.)

FEDERAL AGENCY HONOR PROGRAM - A program sponsored by a federal agency e.g., Justice or Treasury Department for law students who meet specific academic standards or co-curricular activities. The Honor Program is often the only entry to the agency directly from law school.

FEEDER SCHOOLS - A term referring to schools at which a legal employer tends to recruit heavily and employ a large number of graduates. Also refers to undergraduate schools from which law schools enroll a large number of students.

FELLOWSHIP - A program that matches law graduates with public service organizations or with law school programs. Fellowships are variously funded and very competitive and are usually for a prescribed number of years following graduation.

FIRM RESUME - An informational brochure that employers provide to career services offices to acquaint law students with the employer's business, recruiting plans, summer clerk and associate programs, and so on.

GENERAL COUNSEL - See In-House Counsel

GOING RATE - The predominant starting salary for lawyers and summer clerks for any given city or market area.

HEADHUNTER/LEGAL SEARCH CONSULTANT - An individual associated with a private placement agency, i.e., an individual who assists with the matching of a potential employee with an employer and who receives a fee from the employer, calculated as a percentage of the employee's starting base salary.

HIRING COMMITTEE - A committee of lawyers that oversees the recruiting program and makes hiring decisions.

HIRING ATTORNEY/HIRING PARTNER - The attorney/partner who is chair of a legal employer's Hiring Committee.

HISPANIC NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION - A national association of Hispanic attorneys.

HLSA - Hispanic Law Students Association.

HOLD LETTER - Letter indicating to the student recipient that he/she is still under consideration for an offer.

HOST FIRM – The firm that coordinates travel and pays a student's expenses on behalf of all the firms a candidate is interviewing with during callback interviews.

IF YOU ARE IN TOWN... LETTER - A fairly standard response to students who have written directly to out-of-town employers. The sense of the letter is that the firm is not willing to pay for the student's travel expenses but, if the student will be in town, the employer will grant an interview.

IN-HOUSE COUNSEL - This term refers to a lawyer who works for a business as the company lawyer. Generally, large corporations have sizable legal departments and often will use outside counsel (i.e., law firms) for litigation or specialty work.

INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWING – A specialized form of networking in which a student/graduate takes 20 to 30 minutes to speak with a  professional in a practice area or career in which they are interested.  Informational interviewing provides an opportunity to learn more about specific jobs and career paths, current developments in the industry, and other useful contacts.  The purpose of an informational interview is to gather information and make contacts, not to interview for a specific position. 

JAGC - Judge Advocate General's Corps. The in-house counsel of the various armed forces.

J.D./JURIS DOCTOR - Degree awarded after three years of prescribed study in a U.S. law school. Canadian law schools award J.D. or LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws) degrees.

JOB FAIR/CAREER FAIR - An off-campus interview program usually sponsored by several law schools to bring together students and employers in one centralized setting. Job fairs may appeal to employers and market students in specialty areas of practice e.g., intellectual property or may be designed to assist employers interested specifically in hiring minority students.

JOINT DEGREE PROGRAMS - A dual degree program leading to a J.D. degree in conjunction with another advanced degree, e.g., M.B.A., Masters in Accounting., Ph.D., Masters in Public Health, etc.

J.S.D./S.J.D. – Doctor of Juridical Science, a 3-5 year program where candidates must submit a dissertation of significant legal value that is an original contribution to the scholarly field. The S.J.D. (or J.S.D) is typically the most advanced (or terminal) law degree that would follow the earning of the LL.M. and J.D. degrees.

JUDICIAL CLERK - A law school graduate employed by a judge to assist with research, writing, and review of opinions and orders, usually for a one- or two-year period. The level of prestige of the clerkship is often commensurate with the level of the court.

JUDICIAL EXTERNSHIP/INTERNSHIP – A judicial externship/internship is typically an unpaid summer or school term position for a law student working with a judge to gain experience with legal research and writing in state or federal court. 

LL.B. - Bachelor of Laws Degree. This degree is still offered by some Canadian universities, as well as in other common law countries. Equivalent to a J.D. degree, the LL.B. was the law degree conferred in the U.S. prior to establishment of the J.D.

LL.M. - Master of Laws Degree. An advanced degree beyond the J.D., often concentrated in a specialty area, e.g., taxation, banking, etc.

LALSA - The Latin American Law Students Association.

LATERAL HIRE - An experienced lawyer who has been hired by a new employer, often at the same seniority level as in his/her prior position.

LAW REVIEW/LAW JOURNAL - A legal periodical published by law students presenting the results of research, analysis, and scholarly investigation of legal problems. Articles are written by law professors, practitioners, or established authorities from other fields, and notes and comments on recent judicial decisions are prepared by student members. Membership on some law reviews is limited to students who have demonstrated outstanding scholastic ability through grades or writing competitions; some journals are open to all interested students.

LAW STUDENTS 1L, 2L, 3L, 4L - These terms refer to first-year, second-year, third-year and fourth-year (part-time) law students, respectively.

LAWYERING PROCESS - A trend in law schools to provide students with instruction in better lawyering and alternative dispute resolution, e.g., interviewing, counseling, and negotiations.

LDI - Lawyer Development Institute - Annual one day intensive professional development program sponsored by NALP and ALI CLE.

LEGAL MARKETING ASSOCIATION - (LMA) formerly the National Law Firm Marketing Association.

LexisNexis - Online databases of cases, statutes, regulations, newspapers, journals, business magazines, and other materials used by lawyers in doing legal and non-legal research.

L.L.P. - Limited liability partnership. A legal organizational structure in which the liability of partners for the malpractice of another partner is limited.

LMA – Legal Marketing Association.

LOAN REPAYMENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM/LRAP - Law school financial aid programs providing for the reduction or forgiveness of law school debts in return for work with public service organizations for a set period of time after graduation.

LOCK-STEP SALARY STRUCTURE – A pay structure in which law firms compensate associates in direct accordance with their class year. (Compare to Merit-Based Salary Structure.) 

LOTTERY - Resume selection process whereby students are selected at random for interviews as an alternative to prescreening.

LPO - A legal process outsourcing company.

LSAC - Law School Admission Council. This organization is best known for its administration of the LSAT, but it also provides other resources for pre-law and law students and carries out research on topics such as law student debt loads.

LSAT - Law School Admission Test, a prerequisite for admission to most law schools.

MacCRATE REPORT - A major study published in July 1992 by the ABA Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap (referred to as the MacCrate Report because the Task Force was chaired by Robert MacCrate). This report on the status of legal education focuses on the preparation of law students for the practice of law.

MARTINDALE-HUBBELL - A multi-volume directory (and database on-line on LEXIS) of private law firms and in-house counsel for corporations that lists lawyers, biographical information, areas of practice, and representative clients.

MASS MAILING - A method of job hunting by job applicants send numerous employers the same letter. Students may do mass mailings by e-mail, but, whether via conventional or electronic mail, mass mailings are generally not targeted carefully enough to achieve positive results.

MENTOR - A lawyer who assumes responsibility for teaching and guidance of a new lawyer or summer associate.

MERIT-BASED SALARY STRUCTURE – A pay structure in which law firms compensate associates based on their individual performance rather than in accordance with their class year. (Compare to Lock-Step Salary Structure.) 

MOCK INTERVIEW – A practice interview with a professional. The mock interview may be for a fictitious position or practice for an actual upcoming interview.  The student/graduate practices his or her interviewing skills and receives feedback and recommendations for improvement.

MOCK TRIAL – A co-curricular activity (or academic course) for students interested in the principles of trial advocacy. Students, representing either the plaintiff or defendant, present evidence through witnesses in a trial setting before either a judge or jury.

MOOT COURT - A co-curricular activity (or academic course) for students interested in the principles of written and oral advocacy. Students represent either the plaintiff or defendant in writing briefs and presenting oral arguments in a mock oral argument/appellate advocacy setting.

MORAL FITNESS - Prior to being permitted to sit for a state's bar exam, the state's Board of Bar Examiners attempts to ascertain the moral fitness of a bar candidate by doing extensive research into the individual's past.

MPRE - Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, required in many states to practice law.

MULTISTATE BAR EXAM - (MBE) An exam required by many states for admission to the bar that tests federal law as it applies to all states.

NACE - National Association of Colleges and Employers (formerly the College Placement Council)

NALP - Founded in 1971, NALP is an organization of law schools and legal employers committed to the development and advancement of fair, effective, and efficient career services and recruitment practices. NALP works toward this goal by providing educational programs and materials to those involved in legal career services and recruitment and by establishing and maintaining standards.

NALP BULLETIN - A monthly magazine from NALP providing informative articles, book reviews, and professional news.

NALP FORM - A questionnaire developed by NALP member organizations and used to collect information about a legal employer's business and recruiting practices. The questionnaires are used by law schools to standardize the collection of employer information. Employers may also choose to have their NALP Forms published in the annual NALP Directory of Legal Employers, which is available in print and on-line at

NALP TRAVEL EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT FORM – Form developed by NALP and used by students to obtain reimbursement from employers for travel expenses incurred while attending callback interviews. The form is available at

NALSA - Native American Law Students Association.

NALSC - National Association of Legal Search Consultants.

NAPABA - National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, a national association for Asian/Pacific American attorneys.

NASABA – North American South Asian Bar Association.

NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION - A national association for African-American attorneys.

NATIVE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION - A national association for Native American attorneys.

NDLE - NALP Directory of Legal Employers.

NDLS - NALP Directory of Law Schools.

NETWORKING - The art of cultivating and developing contacts.

NLGLA - National Lesbian and Gay Law Association.

NPF -the annual NALP Newer Professionals' Forum.

OCI - On-campus interviewing scheduled by an employer through the career services office at a school with students at the school. (See also On-Campus Interviews.)

OF COUNSEL - A lawyer who is not a partner of a firm but who has a formal relationship with the firm. For example, the term may be used for a senior partner of a law firm who has gone into semi-retirement or a lateral hire who may be in line for partnership after a prescribed amount of time with the firm. (See also Partner and Associate.)

OFF-CAMPUS INTERVIEW PROGRAM - A recruitment program in which students pay their own travel and lodging expenses to participate in employment interviews arranged in a different city by their career services office.

ON-CAMPUS INTERVIEWS/OCI - Typically, large law firms, corporations, and government agencies who recruit a year in advance for their hiring needs visit law school campuses during August through December to conduct employment interviews with law students for summer and full-time associate positions.

ORDER OF THE COIF - A national legal honor society, similar to Phi Beta Kappa for undergraduate institutions, in which membership is limited to the academic top 10% of each graduating class.

OSCAR – The Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR) is a single, centralized resource for notice of available federal clerkships, clerkship application information, and law clerk employment information. OSCAR accommodates federal judges who choose to accept clerkship applications electronically, judges who want to receive only paper applications, and judges who wish to advise applicants that they do not have a clerkship vacancy (from the OSCAR website).

OUTLaw – Shorthand moniker for several LGBT student associations.

OUTPLACEMENT - Career and job search counseling provided to lawyers who are leaving a firm.

OVERSUBSCRIPTION/OVERFLOW RESUMES - Students who were unable to secure an on-campus or job fair interview with an employer and whose resumes are still provided to the employer on an overflow basis.

PARALEGAL/LEGAL ASSISTANT - An individual who has received either formal academic training or on-the-job training to assist lawyers with certain aspects of law practice. The responsibilities of paralegals vary from employer to employer.

PARTNER - A lawyer who has become an owner of the firm and is paid a percentage of the firm's profits that reflects the lawyer's contribution to the firm. Sometimes called a shareholder or equity member of the firm. (See also Associate and Permanent Associate.)

P.C./P.A. - Professional Corporation/Professional Association. A tax arrangement allowing partnerships to enjoy corporate benefits while retaining the other attributes of a partnership.

PDI - Annual Professional Development Institute sponsored by NALP and ALI CLE.

PERMANENT ASSOCIATE/NON-EQUITY PARTNER - A lawyer not considered on track for equity partnership but who fulfills a specialty niche in the firm's practice.

PIGGYBACKING - Slang for a student building upon one out-of-town interview so that the trip results in several interviews for the student.

POUNDING THE PAVEMENT/DOOR KNOCKING - A job search method by which students call upon potential employers without previously arranging for an interview.

PPP or PPEP- Profits per partner - or profits per equity partner -  a measure of law firm profitability frequently used by the legal media.

PRESCREENING - A procedure by which employers are permitted to review students' resumes prior to on-campus interviews and select the students they desire to interview.

PRINCIPLES - NALP's ethical guidelines for law schools, legal employers, and students regarding the law placement and recruiting process.

PRO BONO/PRO PUBLICO PRACTICE - Literally, for the public good, refers to time donated at no charge by lawyers in the community interest, including representation of the poor, charitable organizations, not-for-profit organizations, and other groups whose purposes are for the good of the general public.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT CONSORTIUM - (PDC) An association of individuals who are employed by their law firms, government agencies, corporations, or other organizations to coordinate lawyer professional development or continuing legal education.

PROFIT CENTERS - Refers to those departments in a law firm that tend to produce the most business and, thus, generate the most revenue for the firm.

PSJD - NALP's website featuring a large database of public service law and law-related jobs.

RAINMAKER - A lawyer who brings in a great deal of business for his/her firm.

RECIPROCITY - Agreements among law schools allowing students and/or graduates to use the career services offices at other schools. NALP periodically publishes a compilation of law school reciprocity policies. May also refer to bar admission practices among certain states wherein bar passage in one state may entitle the attorney to admission in the second state without having to adhere to all of the formalities of typical admission requirements (e.g., Admission without Examination).

RESUME COLLECT – As an alternative to participating in on-campus interviews, employers may choose to receive resumes of interested students, collected by the Career Services Office, and select candidates for in-house interviews.  See also Direct Contact/Resumes Forwarded

RETURN VISIT/SECOND LOOK – When candidates, after being offered a position, go back to a firm to talk to more people to help them make a decision.

SALSA – South Asian Law Student Association.

SECONDMENT - The practice under which a lawyer from a law firm temporarily acts as inside counsel for a host organization, such as a client, a governmental agency, or a charity.

S.J.D./J.S.D. – Doctor of Juridical Science, a 3-5 year program where candidates must submit a dissertation of significant legal value that is an original contribution to the scholarly field. The S.J.D. (or J.S.D) is typically the most advanced (or terminal) law degree that would follow the earning of the LL.M. and J.D. degrees.

SPECTATOR ASSIGNMENTS - Activities designed for summer law clerks that allow them to observe the firm's lawyers in action, e.g., sitting in on a closing, observing a litigator in court, etc.

SPLIT SUMMER - A summer in which a law clerk works for more than one employer.

STAFF ATTORNEY – Term for a non-partnership track attorney at a firm, an attorney within an in-house department, or an attorney in a public interest position.

STANDARD 511 - An accrediting standard of the ABA which states: "A law school shall provide all its students, regardless of enrollment or scheduling option, with basic student services, including maintenance of accurate student records, academic advising and counseling, financial aid counseling, and an active career counseling service to assist students in making sound career choices and obtaining employment. If a law school does not provide these types of student services directly, it must demonstrate that its students have reasonable access to such services from the university of which it is a part or from other sources."

STUDENT BAR ASSOCIATION - (SBA) Student governing body of a law school.

SUMMER ASSOCIATES/SUMMER CLERKS - Law students employed as law clerks during the summer.

UP OR OUT POLICY - Refers to a philosophy within many law firms whereby a lawyer either is made a partner after a stipulated associate period or leaves the firm.

WESTLAW - Thomson Reuters' electronic databases of cases, statutes, regulations, newspapers, journals, business magazines and other materials used by lawyers in doing legal and non-legal research. WESTLAW includes the West Legal Directory (a database of attorneys throughout the country) and other databases which are useful to students in searching for possible employers and to career services and recruitment professionals.

WRITE-IN APPLICATIONS - Unsolicited letter and resume applications.

WRITE-OFFS - Billable client time that is subsequently not charged to a client.

WRITING SAMPLE - A piece of legal writing submitted to an employer by an applicant to demonstrate legal writing skills.

VISITING PROFESSOR - A faculty member who is on leave of absence from his/her institution so that he/she may teach at a different law school.

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