When should I decline a legal employment offer?
Generally speaking, you should decline an offer of employment as soon as you decide that the position is not right for you.
Holding an employment offer when you have no intention of accepting it is inappropriate–it does a disservice to both your classmates, who might be extended an offer if you were to decline, and to employers who are working hard to organize successful and well-attended summer programs. NALP standards NALP has standards that provide more specific parameters for upper-class students. According to NALP, after October 15, a student should not hold open more than four offers of employment simultaneously, and after November 1, a student should not hold open more than three offers simultaneously.
For each offer received that places a student over the offer limit, the student should, within one week of receipt of the excess offer, release an offer (Provision V.A.4). In addition, students should be aware employers have the right to retract any offer that is not reaffirmed by a student within 30 days of the date of the offer letter (Provision V.A.2). Phone call versus letter versus email It is common to respond to an offer in the same manner that it was conveyed (i.e., respond to a telephone call with a telephone call), but it is not necessary.
If you are nervous about calling with your news, keep in mind that you should not anticipate that the phone call will be long, intense, or even awkward. Law firms get turned down regularly, and though they may not like it, they are typically quite gracious about it. It is acceptable to leave a voice mail message declining a job offer, but don’t try to avoid talking to a live person by calling at 11:00 p.m. Voice mail records the time of the call, and your attempt to avoid the conversation will be obvious. If the thought of a phone conversation makes you very uncomfortable, just send a short, courteous letter. Only respond by email if that is the manner in which you received your offer.
The best addressee is the person who made you the offer; another choice is the person you met on campus or was in charge of your callback visit. A recruiting director is also an option since she is the person who keeps the files. If you decline by phone, you can send your follow-up letter directly to the recruiting coordinator (explain you are confirming your phone conversation with X), or write to the person with whom you spoke and cc the recruiting director. What to say You need not volunteer a lot of information; just be direct and scrupulously polite.
Think of the sorts of things the law firm would say in turning you down, and adapt them–you're grateful for the offer, you very much appreciate their time and effort, it's a difficult decision when faced with a number of interesting choices, but you have a limited amount of time and you couldn't do everything, and you think another option is best for you for this summer (or words to that effect).
You can certainly volunteer the name of the firm where you'll be working, but you don't have to. In a telephone conversation, you may be asked where you're going, so just be prepared for the question. Generally, they're curious, not upset, and will simply say something nice like “Oh, XYZ is a good firm.” If you want to keep a line of communication open with one or more specific lawyers at the firm with whom you had particularly good conversations, you can certainly write them separate notes (but you don't have to).
Follow up If you decline an offer over the phone, it is a good idea to follow up with a letter (especially if you only leave a voice mail message) so you and the firm have a record. If you accept a job offer over the phone, it is usually not necessary to follow up with a letter. The employer typically follows up an acceptance with a letter confirming the acceptance and providing additional information about the position.
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.
With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.
Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.
Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.
One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.
One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.
Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.
In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.
Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.
In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.
Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays
You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts
You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives
Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.