Those of you who follow the associate recruiting game may be interested in this little story. Apparently, Reed Smith - a law firm you never realized was so huge (1500 lawyers in 23 cities) - recently withdrew from On Campus Interviewing (OCI) at Fordham Law. Fordham had already released its interviewing schedule (and apparently Reed Smith was only cancelling at certain law schools) so Dean William Treanor was pissed. He promptly punished the firm by banning it from OCI for the next five years. The grounds: the late cancellation constituted a breach of professionalism.
This brings up two questions for me. The first is practical. Does Fordham really have that much market power that it can afford to punish Reed Smith in this fashion? It strikes me that the sanction is awfully strong and will only hurt the students. I imagine that Treanor is figuring that the ban will send shivers down the spines of other firms considering such pullouts. He's counting on deterrence, and assuming that fear will outweigh the scorn this decision may generate among hiring partners. In a market where firms are slashing staff, cutting wages, and deferring offers, cancellation of an interview slate seems like a minor event. Fordham grads, while excellent, are also highly fungible. Why interview at Fordham when you can go to, say, Wash U. in St. Louis, with no risk of cancellation sanctions? Perhaps Fordham thinks this will impress students (and prospective students)...but I'm far from certain about that.
My second question is more substantive. Was the firm's cancellation of its interview panel, even at a late date, really so unprofessional? Law firms are professional businesses. Which is to say, they are businesses. It sounds like the firm doesn't intend to do a ton of hiring this year. It makes sense that, if the firm wants to hire a small number of attorneys, it would reduce the overall number of people it interviews. The cost of that reduction may fall disproportionately on Fordham (as opposed to, say, Columbia), but that doesn't strike me as unprofessional. Indeed, if the firm really doesn't expect to hire many (if any) Fordham grads this year, wouldn't the interviewers and interviewees just be wasting their time? Can it be that wasting time is required in the name of professionalism?
Reed Smith has responded with great restraint. I wonder if other firms, unaffected by the ban, may now think twice about signing up with Fordham. It's hard to imagine that the benefits of OCI outweight the risks of being subject to a public flogging like we've seen here.
Dean Treanor's email is after the jump.
Ethics and professionalism are at the heart of the legal profession. At Fordham Law, we strive to impart to our students the importance of these principles through our curriculum, clinics, and activities--and during the job search process. The importance of law schools instilling the tenets of professionalism in students is a theme we continually hear from legal employers.
I am disappointed, therefore, to advise you that, after the release of EIW interview schedules, Reed Smith contacted us to withdraw from this year's EIW program. While the firm intends to have a 2010 Summer Associate Program and to keep its commitment to interview at other schools, Reed Smith decided to no longer interview at some schools, including Fordham....
While disappointing, Reed Smith's action is more disheartening because of the lack of professionalism it conveys. The firm could have made its decision earlier; in fact, it received its interview schedule prior to canceling its participation. In my seven years as Dean, no other firm has canceled its interviews after the schedule was released. Thus, we have informed the firm that it will not be invited to participate in our OCI program for the next 5 years. I have never imposed such a sanction on an employer, and I was saddened to do so. At Fordham Law, we require our students to conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism, and we expect employers to demonstrate the same high standards.