Dispatches from the Vault/MCCA Legal Diversity Career Fair

by Vault Law Editors | August 07, 2009

  • My Vault

Greetings from the Marriott Marquis in Midtown Manhattan, where scads of jobseekers shuffle between recruiting booths at the fourth annual Vault/MCCA Legal Diversity Career Fair. As the touristic throngs gawk at the twinkly lights of Times Square beyond, law school students, recent graduates and a substantial number of lateral candidates put in face time with recruiters from BigLaw, government and private corporations (the Target booth particularly resplendent in its ketchup hue). Recruiters have seen the crowd ebb and flow since the floor opened at 9:30 a.m., with the ever-hiring governmental agencies a popular choice in the morning and candidates stacking up for the private firms as the day's progressed (at present -- 1:30 p.m. -- Nixon Peabody, Baker Botts, Fish & Richardson and Moses & Singer, among others, are keeping ‘em waiting, while the DOJ seems to be the popular kid in the public sector).

Anecdotal evidence suggests, logically, that more 3Ls and laterals are turning out than in years past. Deborah Innocent (JD ‘08, Thomas M. Cooley Law School) is one such hopeful: Innocent is preparing to jump back into the academic fray come fall, when she’ll start a two-year LLM night program at New York Law School; she’s looking for a full-time day gig to pay the bills. (In her words, she’s somewhat unique in that she’s “kind of transitioning between being a student and a lateral.”) Innocent’s decision to return to the classroom was made easier by the recession, she explained: “The economy is tough,” she said. “I have to do what I have to do to give myself an edge.” Now decompressing in her native Queens after taking the New York and New Jersey bars last month, Innocent stopped by the fair with realistic expectations, hoping to make connections that might prove useful down the road rather than banking on any immediate callback. Waiting to chat with a Fish & Richardson rep, she mentioned that recruiters seemed to have their focus trained on law students entering their second year -- a/k/a the summer associate class of 2010. Odetta Cohen, a legal recruiting assistant for Kaye Scholer, confirmed that “2Ls are probably the primary target” of her firm and its peers. No surprise there. But Cohen also pointed out that the turnout included “a lot more 3Ls this year -- a lot of people who haven’t gotten offers, whereas in years past, they might have.” In screening candidates for the firm’s 2010 summer class, Cohen estimated that only about half the attendees she’d encountered had been 2Ls, with a full quarter of the unemployed masses presenting themselves as lateral prospects; most of the latter, Cohen said, were second-and-third-year associates who’d recently received walking papers.

Visitors, having endured a constant (albeit receding) stream of cataclysmic industry news over the past year, seemed to have steeled themselves for sobering updates from the private firms. Toward the end of a Nixon Peabody line that stretched 12-deep around a corner of booths, Hofstra 3L Alexandra Cruz acknowledged that she knew “it was gonna be brutal” trying to find a job in tax or corporate law. Cruz, who said she was also focusing on Allen & Overy and the FDIC as potential employers, is among the thousands of students who failed to secure a summer position this year, though she did spend three months interning for the Nassau (N.Y.) County property litigation team in the spring.

Much more to come on Monday; potential topics to include O.J., the homogeneity of BigLaw fashion, the rigors of military law boot camp, and, as always, pirates.

- posted by ben fuchs

Filed Under: Law

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