Accepting and Rejecting Offers
In general, you will receive job offers by telephone and rejections by letter. Since you may not be available when the employer calls, you should consider carefully what your voicemail message says.
When you receive a job offer, it is very important that you respond promptly and appropriately. In all cases, you need to:
- telephone the employer to give your response;
- follow-up in writing to reiterate what you told the employer over the phone and to make sure that there aren’t any misunderstandings.
Both stages of your response are important, and the way you handle them will be a building block of your professional reputation with that employer.
You have several options when responding to an offer. You can accept right away, tactfully reject the offer, or indicate that you need to consider your decision further.
If you want to accept an offer immediately
By all means do so. Do not think that holding out will gain you points in the long run – to the contrary, the employer will be pleased to know early that you are joining them.
Which brings us to… reneging. NALP regulations apply to students as well as to employers. An important regulation reads: “Candidates should honor their employment commitments.” We feel very strongly about this regulation. It is our policy to disallow a student from using CP&P services and resources upon notice that he or she has reneged. Don’t accept an offer thinking you can cancel if a better opportunity comes along.
If you are not interested in an employer
Decline the offer as soon as possible. Remember that an employer has only a certain number of slots to fill – your declination may open up a slot for a classmate. Call the recruiting department and let them know that, while you enjoyed meeting them, you are accepting another offer or have decided to continue your search elsewhere. If you have subjective reasons to give them as to why you are declining their offer – e.g., practice areas, firm size, geography – be sure to let them know. If you have established a relationship with a particular attorney there, be sure to call that person as well.
When you want time to consider other opportunities
If you want time to consider the offer and perhaps have the opportunity to pursue other possibilities, this is OK. You can say something along the lines of, “I am thrilled to get your offer. At this point, I am narrowing down my options and I’ll be pleased to get back to you by…(give a date certain - within the NALP guidelines).”
However, once you’ve made a decision to accept an offer at a firm, be sure to let all of the employers with whom you have outstanding offers know of your decision. The legal market is a small community, and you want to act professionally in all of your dealings with all employers. You never know when you might want to re-express your interest in an employer - you certainly don’t want them to have your file indicating you never responded.
If you are going to take a while to consider your offer be prepared to be asked about what other employers you are considering. This can put you in an awkward position. Think in advance as to how you want to reply. You can answer in a number of ways: give them your current list of prospects; tell them “large firms in NYC”; sidestep the question with one of your own, such as, “do you have any suggestions for me?” Additionally, think ahead of time about what you need to know in order to make your decision. Prepare your questions, writing them down if necessary.
Do you want a return visit to the employer or a chance to talk to some more attorneys? Most employers are happy to accommodate you on this front.
When will they need an answer from you?
For 1Ls: The Penn Law Policy: Standards for the Timing of Offers and Decisions asks employers to give students two weeks in which to make a decision. However, two weeks may be too long for some employers of 1L students. In this case, you are left to your lawyerly negotiation skills, your tact, and your intuition.
For 2Ls and 3Ls: Please see the Penn Law Policy: Standards for the Timing of Offers and Decisions.
Remember, after you have called to accept or decline an offer, you need to follow up in writing. See sample post-offer letters here.