Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What OGI Problems, Part III: Prescreening?

It's come to our attention that posting entire articles from the Virginia Law Weekly is a COPYWRONG, even with the permission of the person who wrote them. Who knew? Anyway, last week the Law Weekly published our piece titled "Challenging Times at UVA Law" in which we 1) surveyed the OGI process, which many second year students historically use to get jobs and 2) proposed some solutions for fixing it.

As for the problem, we all already know:

These are tough times at the Law School. Ask around the 2L class, and you’ll get a sense of exactly what I mean. Despite a blithe assessment by the Law Weekly a few weeks ago that the OGI process was going great and that the only real problems were students being unaware that they didn’t need to take the full number of interviews to get a job, the truth is that many, many second-year students are struggling in the job search. I’m not privy to any official numbers coming out of Career Services (although I understand such numbers will be available soon), but the UVA Law Blog website (maintained by myself and others) ran an informal poll a few weeks ago that sheds some light on the situation. Of the nearly 100 local responses, nearly a quarter of respondents were voicing some degree of frustration with trying to get a job . . . . The legal market is contracting, large firms are cutting their summer class sizes, and some smaller firms are eliminating their summer programs altogether.

Now, don't get us wrong - OGI still work pretty well for a lot of people (indeed we think Career Services has done a good job all things considered) - us included -just not everyone. And, of course, the bad economy is just one piece of the puzzle:

The other problems, like everything else in life, are ones of miscalculation, misinformation, and timing. Many students, based on information and statistics from previous years, thought they could rely on the OGI process to get them a job. One explained to me how in the first round he scored 14 pre-screened interviews, and thought that this would be enough to get him a number of callbacks that would result in at least one offer. The result, however, was no callbacks. Others, also relying on the OGI process, indicated to me that they thought they waited too long to start alternate job search tactics, like mass-mailing smaller firms.

Anyway, that's just by way of introduction. One of the solutions we proposed was a serious reevaluation of whether the Law School's unique (by top 14 law school standards) program of prescreening was beneficial to students as a whole:

One thing that I would suggest revisiting is the Law School’s policy of “prescreening” most interviews. Virginia is the only school ranked in the top 15 by U.S. News and World Report that continues to use this practice, by which employers select based on resume and grades which students they will talk to at OGI. Virginia’s peer schools have a different system by which interviews are allocated on the basis of student demand: you rank the firms with which you want to interview in order from most to least, and a computer system allocates available interviews accordingly.

Prescreening is loved by employers (and perhaps one of the reasons OGI is so popular) but has questionable benefits for students. A student at or near the top of the class will get most of his interview selections, a student more towards the bottom will not. A partial lottery system in place helps to rectify the situation somewhat, but most interview slots are still prescreened.

This seems to be (based on an informal survey of people who have flagged us down in the halls) one of the more controversial proposals. People have suggested that prescreening is beneficial to everyone because, as one person put it, "once you get to the prescreened interview, the firm doesn't care about your grades." We think that's probably false, because firms use quotas and are still often making their decision about to whom to give a callback on the basis of grades:

Another major problem here is that a student with good grades can take 25 OGI interviews and wind up with almost that many callbacks, even though he’s not really interested in most of the firms. A student with lower grades (who still may have gotten prescreen interviews under the current system) may not get any. A partner who conducted screening interviews at UVA for a large law firm once explained to me that firms typically have “callback quotas” for each batch of interviews that they conduct at a given school; thus, when interviews aren’t allocated by student interest in the firm, it results in a situation where a small group of students (usually the ones with the best grades) are getting a mass of callbacks at the firms in which they have little interest at the expense of other students with lower grades who are interested in these firms. Switching to the system that other top law schools use would help alleviate this problem.

Prescreening helps law firms (who don't like wasting their time with students they would never hire), and it helps students at the top of the class at the expense of those at the middle, and, especially the bottom of the class. Simply, there is a reason why other top law schools don't prescreen. They trust their students to make appropriate choices about how to rank their firms, and provide the students with information (such as the average GPA granted a callback) such that students do not make to many unrealistic choices. What this means is that the same handful of students at the top of the class aren't getting the all the callbacks (remember, quota!) from 25 different firms. Allocating screening interviews by interest means that the students who are talking to the firm are doing so because they have a strong interest in working therre, not just because they have good grades; at the same time, arming students with information about the firm's GPA cutoffs (which Career Services at many other schools collects) means that students for the most part will still be 'quaified' to work there. The result, we think, is that callbacks will be spread more evenly throughout the class.

Additionally, switching to a non-prescreened interview system like other schools use would allow every student - regardless of GPA - to have a roughly equal number of interviews. Given that we are all theoretically paying the same amount (over $3,000 more this year than last!) to be here, this just seems fair. We don't think that GPA should be used as a determinant to detemine who gets a 30 minute shot at talking to a firm, since some people by necessity are at the top of the class and others are at the bottom (which is which is a matter of circumstance); we think that student interest in the firm should be.

Other top law schools who have the same prestige in the law firm hiring world as UVA agree. The reason that lower-ranked schools don't prescreen is that they can't; less employers would come to their OCIs. However, UVA is every bit as "good" in the minds of employers as Cal, Michigan, Penn, et seq. If employers don't demand prescreened interviews at those schools; they wouldn't at UVA either. Swithcing to this system would show that UVA stands by its students as a whole in the same way that these schools do.

We realize that there's a lot more that could be said about this, but we've got to sign off (leaving these cursory thoughts) and gun for a bit. Commments are as always appreicated.


4tw said...

Well, I definitely noticed the same two or three LR names on every single interview list I had, talk about annoying. However, how do I know they weren't legitimately interested in those firms and wouldn't have picked them anyways regardless of the screening method? On another note, totally agree that more GPA information is needed. How does career services expect me to adequately stalk/obsess without giving me enough info?

Anonymous said...

While I was initially resistant to the notion that we should get rid of pre-screening, I am coming around to it. Kids with good grades can prioritize their interests just like everyone else. If you got rid of it, you'd probably end up with a system in which all or most special request slots went to people with high grades, but if the initial spots were more easily distributed, that might not be a problem. If they don't get rid of it though, I think the onus falls on top students to be selective, to limit themselves to a reasonable number of interviews based on expected yield, and to accept or reject an offer or callback as soon as they have made a definitive decision about it.

Anonymous said...

Not going to make a difference for firms. I know people at other schools and no one wins a callback at top firms w/out top grades, etc, REGARDLESS of who they get interviews with. If you have top grades, you get the callbacks/offers, under any system. This year was a case of many people overshooting (particularly people who are awkward) and a bad economy slowing down hiring in the middle of the process (hear about S&C's halfway cutoff?). I first advocated for banning the system, but now I think its best b/c the bottom line is it would have NO difference. No one got screwed on the # of first round interviews, people only got screwed on callbacks. LR gunners would still dominate those #s under any system

Anonymous said...

disagree with the last poster - i think it will make SOME difference, albiet not a large one, because you won't have the same LR kids in EVERY SINGLE INTERVIEW.

Anonymous said...

130 -- I think you and the previous poster are only really disagreeing about the douchebaggery of LR kids. The fact that law review kids dominate could happen either way.

Under either system, but particularly this one UVA has now, NO LR kid should take more than 20 interviews. If they do, they that is a problem really separate from the system. A LR kid will still get selected for as many interviews as s/he wants under the ranking system -- right? (just maybe not as many of the top firms; but overall #'s, which seem to be the debate here, would probably stay the same)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if 1:30 was joking in his comment about LR kids "douchebaggery." Perhaps he was. Perhaps not.

I think that LR kids work harder than many of us, myself included, and deserve the better job prospects they have. If a kid with a 3.8 takes 25 OGIs she isn't being a jerk. She's making sure she has options. There's nothing wrong with that.

No law school should be able to tell a great student that he or she cannot apply for OGIs with, say, the top 15 vault ranked firms. You might take issue with such a selection strategy. However, denying this student the right to do that is totally unfair, whether or not other top law schools do it.

I will jump on the info band wagon, however. Career services should know the outcomes for every student, be it OGI, call back or offer, and release that data early, before the summer, so students can know what their chances are.

Anonymous said...

7:45 -- Options? Really? You know that the line about quotas is right and that there were law review kids taking callbacks at 20 firms, and, by this process, SHUTTING PEOPLE OUT OF CALLBACKS. I even had an interviewer, when offering it to me, say "are you gonna take this [callback]? because I need to know now" (clearly meaning they would go someplace else). I mean, I think there should be some kind of limit here for the sake of the other kids, but the school is not going to do that so it is up to the LR kids to limit themselves. If they don't they are guilty of MAJOR DOUCHEBAGGERY

Anonymous said...

I kind of agree with the second to last post. I mean, yeah, taking 25 OGIs when you are on LR might be unecessary (not that LR kids had any better acceptance stats to go on then everyone else), but it may be what one thinks is best for oneself.

The last post implies that LR kids know what they only need to apply for 10 OGIs and apply for more to be jerks. That just is not the case. An LR kids might take 20 with 20 very exclusive firms recognizing they only take excellent candidates and fearing that his or her interview skills might be weak. I just don't see how you can call tht bad.

Rule 12 (f) said...

I think part of the problem is kids don't have enough information about the process going into it (because, indeed, a lot of it is hard to predict). The LR kid w/ 3.8 might feel he NEEDS to take 35 OGIs to be safe, because, it's his future and 2L summer job is an exteremly important decision. But the result is - I think invariably - that he will be getting the lion's share of callbacks from those 25 - - now filter it down the list.

A non-prescreening system doesn't solve the problem completely, as someone pointed out; but I do think that it alleiviates it. Law review kids will have trouble, for example, getting interviews with all 25 firms from (say) Atlanta, they'll have to pick the most selective ones / the ones they really want to work at / etc. This, with more information from career services about GPA cutoffs (e.g. avg. gpa for callback / offer - important info imho!) could make a big difference.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

This is purely anecdotal, but law firm recruiting was not nearly as easy as some might think, even for kids on LR. There were plenty of LR kids for whom the past numbers indicated that they would get, let's say, 80% callbacks (based on OGIs) or 80% offers (based of callbacks), and yet they did not. Retrospectively then, I think it's harder to criticize any LR kid for taking more interviews or callbacks than they "needed." This year's recruiting was a shit-show. That applied across the board. In hindsight it hurt some more than others, but no one knew what was going to happen when it all started.

Anonymous said...

I happened to be working at a firm this last summer with several folks from Georgetown, Coumbia and other good schools. Without exception, they expressed the opinion that our combination prescreen and lottery system was the best and derided their own "pure lottery" systems. The reasons seem to be essentially two:

First, the costs of a pure lottery system are substantial. A great part of ordering preferences is the personal information that is gleaned from the interviewing process itself. Also, elimination of prescreening will hurt the University's draw for OGI's. Employers in a tight market may not wish to waste the costs coming to UVA to talk to students they don't think they'd hire. The assumption with pure lottery, I believe, is that at schools of a given caliber, an employer would be happy to have anyone. As the job market tightens, this assumption becomes less true. I doubt whether it is true anymore for any school.

Second, the benefit to middle/lower grade students is nonexistent. Let's be clear here. Middle/lower grade students might get more early round interviews under that system. But if you're in the bottom part of the class, in this market you're in trouble and being in an interview where the interviewer was required to take you isn't going to help.

The remedy to this is to limit the total number of interviews allowed to the top students in each round. At present, there is some self limitation taking place. I only did 9 interviews total. I took only 2 of 5 proffered callbacks. I did not use the lottery. But I am aware of several top students who took 35+ interviews and had upwards of 15 callbacks. This seems to me to be absurd.

The advantages of limitation of numbers as opposed to pure lottery are evident. First, employers will still come to UVA in good numbers knowing they can prescreen. Second, there is no necessity to finely order preferences prior to interviewing (which is an onerous if not impossible task without the information gleaned through personal contact). Third, middle/lower students will be assured that the interviews they get are with firms that really want to talk to them. Fourth, and most obviously, the top students will be unable to snatch up all the interviews to the exclusion of everyone else.

(As a side note: I have seen a bit of vitriol directed toward the folks with good grades. It has been my observation that most folks with good grades take too many interviews because they are just as insecure and worried about their results leading into this process as anyone else and not because they are greedy. It's not like interviews are so much fun that anyone really wants a lot of them.)

Anonymous said...

I just plain think that a total lottery (we ought to call it blind auction) system is unfair to students who work hard and get good grades. Does anyone think it is fair to tell a kid with god grades he cannot apply for interviews at the 10 top firsm of his choice?

Anonymous said...

12:09 has got it right, I think. We need a combination of better information and actual enforcement of the "recommended" limits on number of requested interviews. The kids with good grades may reasonably be cautious and wary of taking too few interviews.

I don't think getting rid of the pre-screening would ultimately be that helpful for people with non-amazing grades. As someone noted, people at all-lottery schools don't like their systems all that much either (and if you talk to people at those schools this year, you'll find that they've been having a rough time too). You said yourself that you think firms base callback decisions on grades (and I agree). Wouldn't that problem be even more more pronounced without prescreening?

Rule 12 (f) said...

With better information, kids would be able to sign up for non-prescreened interviews with some idea about how they would fare. Thus the kid with a 3.2 is not going to waste his time / interview pick talking to Cravath, at least not if he is smart about the process.

Moreover, I still think in principle interviews should be allocated to the students who desire them the most. The school should be mindful of the fact that half the class is at a 3.3 or below, and they pay just as much to be here as the people; why should they not have the same access to speak to employers? Allocating interviews on the basis of student interest means that you wouldn't have a situation where LR kids are dominating an interview where the average prescreened GPA was 3.3 (yes, we believe this happened) and then taking all the callbacks - - - unless they really wanted to be there.

Anonymous said...

They should have more access to firms because they have better grades, obviously. I also think it is fair to say that they want the interviews more because they were willing to wokr harder than students with lower grades.

Basically, I think the system would be fine as is if only a ton of new information was made availible.

Also, is anyone willing to say that it's fair to tell an LR kid s/he cannot interview with her ten favorite firms. I don't think it is. Everyone should have the right to get their resume and transcript to every firm they want to send them to.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why or how you think the average prescreened gpa was a 3.3. Even so, that may or may not be telling. How many 3.5s do you think Sullivan screened? How many for Cravath, Skadden, and the rest of the higher ranked firms.

There are probably a lot of firms who prescreen at well below our mean. What we need is the info.

Anonymous said...

From what I can tell, NO ONE IS SAYING LAW SCHOOL KIDS SHOULD NOT REQUEST THEIR TOP 10 FIRMS. The real problem is when a law review kid takes 30 interviews and accepts more than 20 callbacks. That is, as someone else pointed out, douchey. More importantly, you can only take one of those and you need to make a decision now.

I think the collective opinion is not about the system needing to change, it is about the people in the system needing to be more realistic and responsible

If you are significantly below a firm median, you need to be realistic. If you are well above it, be very serious about the firm or don't request. Also, especially if you are serious, accept the callback and then go and interview realtively soon. If you are not serious don't take the callback. (I also think no one with a good resume should be taking more than 10. . .)

Anonymous said...

It may be true that in the past people on law review could just pick their top ten firms, get those interviews, take a few callbacks, and get the job they want. That's not the reality now. Sure, there are still a few people on law review who had a really easy time with recruiting. There are just as many, if not more, however, who didn't have things pan out the way they wanted. It's easy to say that it's "douchey" for someone on law review to take more than ten interviews, but many people, when faced with the choice between feeling secure about their own future careers and dropping some callbacks to hypothetically help classmates will take the former. Can you blame them?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the last post. Calling such behavior "douchy" is sophmoric and just plain wrong.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, why say "douchy?" Are we children or grad students.

Rule 12 (f) said...

grad students. We're definitely grad students.

Anonymous said...

Agree with those who say more information should be made available - student's GPA, who they interviewed with, from whom they received callbacks, who cancelled their offered callbacks, etc. Right now, we don't have that. There is never any magic formula for who gets hired, but that info will provide some (albeit vague) guideline.

But that's as far as I would go. This whole discussion about getting rid of prescreens is ridiculous. Get real, people. When you go out to the real world and apply for a job, do you expect people not to look at your qualifications first before they grant you an interview? You probably didn't even get that luxury when you were applying for your summer jobs in high school / college, so why would you expect law firms who are *not making money* off of summer associates to not want to have some control over how they spend their time during the interview process?

As others have pointed out, one of the primary reasons we get so many interviewing firms here during OGI (we are #2 nationwide in number of visiting employers, behind GULC) is because they have a better guarantee of seeing people who they think are worth their time.

My grades are the farthest thing from law review, but I hold no grudges over how many interviews LR kids land, because they worked for it. Its childish to call that "douchey" behavior. Again, when you are about to lateral in the real world, are you going to tell people with awesome resumes not to take too many interviews when you apply for jobs in the same city?

It's a nice and considerate gesture when LR kids give up some of their unused / unnecessary spots, but to vilify them for not ceding opportunities to you is absurd.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I have to agree with the post at 10:47 and wonder if the posters after him/her can read. I think it sad no law review kid should take 20 callbacks. I know for a fact at least one did. I think, no matter who you are and how hard you worked, you should get your top choices -- but taking 20 callbacks?

I also agree that the word douche (and its various forms) here is way overused; but taking more than 5-10 callbacks definately calls for some adj. indicating lameness. . .

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The current system is fine. Do you really want additional barriers to firms interviewing on grounds at UVa? No firms are local, UVa students are not heavily targeting any specific geographical area, and the lack of travel options make it extremely expensive and time consuming to interview here. The fact is the system works well. In a normal year it increases the number of firms who target UVa. In this market it’s keeping firms that may otherwise pull out of OGI all together involved. The job market sucks right now, making the OGI process more cumbersome for employers is not going to help.

Rule 12 (f) said...

please keep the language acceptable - i didn't delete the posts b/c they seemed to be on topic, and I don't have the ability to edit out the just the bad language parts. Keep it civil in the future.