The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Every fall, law firms visit law schools to conduct on-campus recruiting. Usually, associates and some partners will interview many students, back-to-back, on a single day. Students can "bid" for time slots with different firms. Schools will usually open up a suite of offices for firms to conduct these interviews. Some students will then get a "call back," that is, an invitation to visit the firm in person. That interview could last an hour, two hours, half a day, or a full day. Different firms have different approaches. At the end of the process, firms will hand a small number of students offers to work as summer associates. And generally, those summer positions lead to offers of full-time employment after graduation. On-campus recruiting is very, very important.
This fall, on-campus recruiting will be different. Law firms will not be able to visit law schools. All interviews will be conducted over Zoom, and similar platforms. This shift creates new challenges.
First, there are technological problems. On any given day, internet access may falter. If a student's connection drops during class, professors may be forgiving. But if a student has a 15-minute screening interview with a busy partner, a dropped connection could make the difference between a call-back and a rejection letter.
Second, most students use the camera and microphone that is built into their computers. The quality is invariably poor. The sound is garbled and the image is grainy.
Third, students will also be broadcasting from non-ideal environments. Maybe the lighting is bad. Maybe there is background noise. Maybe roommates or family members interrupt the interview. In the backdrop, there may be a dirty bed. (And virtual backdrops are not foolproof). So many things can happen that could send the interview in a bad direction.
Fourth, students are not trained how to conduct interviews over video chat. Maintaining eye contact with a camera is different from maintaining eye contact with a person in real life. If you stare at your screen, and not at your camera, the person on the other end will sense the lack of eye contact. (See this post for details on looking at the camera).
Law schools can help with all of these challenges. How? Law schools can set up dedicated Zoom studios for students to conduct on-campus interviews. These studios can have high-definition cameras, professional microphones, quality lighting, and an appropriate backdrop. The output from these studios will place students above their competition. Appearances do matter. And schools should provide training about how to conduct interviews over Zoom.
Without question, these studios would increase costs. It will also be expensive to clean them between uses. But–cynically–law schools tend to focus on the students who pursue high paying jobs. Criticize that fact if you wish, but it is true. If there is a way to invest resources to ensure current law students obtain high-paying employment in these difficult, then that investment is worthwhile.