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Is Northwestern Law School Clever or What?

Vivia Chen

July 28, 2010

NLaw_photo1 My goodness, it doesn't seem to take much to get the legal community all excited, does it?

The latest brouhaha is that Jones Day is opting out of early interview week this year at Northwestern Law School. Instead, as my cohorts at The Am Law Daily reported a few days ago, Jones Day will be conducting interviews at Northwestern in mid September--a stark departure from standard practice, in which early interviews are usually held in mid-August.

Hardly earth-shattering news, but both Jones Day and Northwestern are crowing about it--and getting lots of attention.

In a unusually lengthy joint press release, both Jones Day and Northwestern criticized the traditional, compressed August interview schedule. The release also says that pushing back the firm's interview schedule will create "a more balanced, less frenzied approach to on-campus recruiting" that is "desirable for all concerned--students, law schools and law firms."

The press release is so cozy that it almost suggests a pact between Northwestern and Jones Day. Did the firm pledge to hire the school's graduates in return for getting the school's endorsement of its hiring strategy? Maybe. Indeed, Jones Day promises in that press release "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."

DavidVanZandt But Jones Day hiring partner Greg Shumaker (see "Jones Day Hiring Partner Tells All") says it all came about because Northwestern dean David Van Zandt (picture left) shares his view that the law school interview process has become madness--particularly the way virtually all on-campus interviews are squeezed into the two or three weeks before Labor Day.

"David [Van Zandt] is very progressive and thinks outside of the box," says Shumaker. "And students are helped because the school cooperates with the legal community." Like Jones Day, says Shumaker, Northwestern "doesn't follow the herd mentality."

Another view might be that Northwestern is just more market-savvy than most, because it's willing to give firms what they want--not a small consideration in this tight job market. It's probably no accident that this eleventh-ranked school gets the top prize for big firm job placements, according to The National Law Journal.

Any way you look at it, it's great PR for both Jones Day and Northwestern. Jones Day gets to casts itself as the iconoclast, while Northwestern gets points for being attuned to market demands.

Maybe it's time for other law schools to find ways to butter up employers--especially if it doesn't cost them anything.

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email The Careerist's chief blogger Vivia Chen at VChen@alm.com.

Photos: Courtesy of Northwestern University

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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