By Alexa T. Edited by Lemon Law School
Bidding refers to the process of registering for screener interviews with employers, which is usually facilitated by an automated system run by the law school. At most law schools and job fairs, this process is how you apply to interview with Big Law firms. The reason why this system exists is because it’s simply not possible to give every student every interview they want due to the time constraints of interviewers. Thus, students are prompted to create a list of desired firms (the “bid list”) for submission into a bidding system.
Different law schools may have different bidding systems, but they frequently use some variation of a priority lottery system based on bids for firm interviews submitted by students.
Some have a pre-select system where rising 2Ls must upload their resumes and transcripts. Employers would then select and invite whom they wanted to interview with. On the other hand, other schools do not allow employers to see grades before screener interviews. In the next few sections I will explain some factors I considered when creating my bid list.
When I was in law school, rising 2Ls were prompted to rank 30 to 50 law firms that they wanted to interview with. Our school’s automated system would then run the bids through an algorithm and assign interview slots to students. The system gave students priority to the firms they ranked more highly. Thus, whether you got a screener interview with a specific firm depends on how highly you rank the firm, how many other students bid on the same firm, and how highly those students place their bids.
A good bid list should take into account multiple factors such as the number of interview slots available, your preferred geographic markets, how competitive your GPA is, and firm selectivity.
Number of Interview Slots
Rather than basing your bid list solely on where you want to work, consider how difficult it will be to get an interview with the law firms. Some law firms only provide a few interview slots. For those firms, you probably need to rank them within your top 3 on your bid list.
Otherwise, you probably won’t get a screener interview with them. You should also spend some time reading over the materials that your law school’s career services sends you regarding the number of available interview slots for each firm to identify popular firms.
You can also reach out to 2Ls and 3Ls who have gone through this process for advice. I personally asked a few 3Ls to look over my bid list. It was very helpful, and I also received some firm-specific tips from them. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
Keep in mind that certain geographic markets are more competitive than others. Based on my knowledge, the D.C. market is especially competitive among others. Even if you are set on working in D.C., make sure you still put some New York firms on your bid list just in case. I had a friend who had excellent grades during 1L, bid exclusively on D.C. and unfortunately struck out during her school’s job fair.
Some other markets require geological ties, meaning some kind of personal connection to the city where the firm is located, usually through family, school or work. Northern Californian law firms seem to care about this a lot. Most of my friends who interviewed there were asked questions like “Why California?” and “What are your ties to California?” Make sure that you are prepared for questions like these. We explained how to answer these questions here.
Some time before your bidding system opens, your career counselors at your law school will tell you about the GPA cutoffs of each law firm.
These cutoffs are not hard GPA floors, so don’t immediately give up on certain firms for this reason. Oftentimes, the GPA cutoffs are merely an average of the GPA of previous students who got an offer, which means that there are still students who received an offer from that law firm with a below average GPA.
One way of figuring out whether the GPA cutoff is a soft or hard one is to contact the career counselors at your law school. They have all the data of the students who received an offer from each law firm during the last recruiting cycle. You should ask them about the minimum GPA required to get an offer from firm X and how many students who received an offer from firm X have a GPA below your current GPA.
Usually, law firms that have a high GPA cutoff will deter most students from bidding for them. If these firms have a lot of interview slots, you should not rank them too high on your bid list because there will usually be open slots available.
Sometimes a bidding fiasco occurs when the firms that you bid for have scheduling conflicts. For example, if the top 10 firms on your bid list all have their interviews scheduled during Day 1 of your school’s job fair, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to interview with all of them on Day 1.
When I was in law school, one of my classmates got screener interviews with all the firms he ranked 1-12, but he lost interviews with firms he ranked 12-16. He went back to the bid list and realized that most of the top 16 firms he bid upon had interviews on the same day. Even though he saw available spots for interviews with #12 to #16, he could not sign up for them due to conflicting interview times. Therefore, make sure you space out the interview times when you formulate your bid list.
What if I can’t get an interview with all of the firms I want?
If you don’t get an interview with every firm on your list, there are other ways to secure an interview. Before my school’s job fair, the career services office ran another lottery for the law firms that decided to expand the number interview slots to account for cancelled slots.
Another way of getting more interviews is to arrive at the hotel (or other location of the job fair) early in the day during the fair and sign up for vacant interview slots due to last minute cancellations. You can also still submit your resumes to the firm through e-mail or drop your resume off at a firm’s hospitality suite.
Bidding Too Conservatively
After my school’s job fair, a few of my friends expressed regret over bidding too conservatively.
Before the job fair, a career counselor at my law school’s career services office set up a 30-minute one-on-one chat with each student to provide advice and offer suggestions regarding our individual bid lists. During my meeting, the career counselors kept comparing my GPA to the firm cutoffs, advising me to cut down the number of “reach” firms on my bid list and suggesting that I bid more conservatively. Yet in the end, I still got an offer from a firm whose GPA cutoff was above my 1L GPA.
Looking back, I believed that while grades mattered to interview outcomes, they did not necessarily predetermine my fate. I also realized that there was a difference between my personal goal and the goals of my law school’s career services. Their goal was to make sure that each student ended the job fair with at least one offer from a Big Law firm, but my personal goal was to get into the best firm possible.
So how conservatively should you bid? You don’t want to bid so conservatively that you end up with offers from firms you don’t find prestigious enough. You also don’t want to bid so liberally that you end up with zero offers at the end of your job fair. How conservatively you can bid will depend on your grades, your work experience, and whether you were able to secure a few firm offers before your law school’s job fair. Consider the following.
If you have excellent grades, then you may likely be a highly sought-after candidate for very prestigious firms. But grades alone aren’t necessarily determinative – your ability to interview well matters the most.
If you have very relevant work experience to the firms’ practice groups, then your chances of securing multiple offers is higher. For instance, if you were a consultant at Deloitte for a few years, you probably have a lot of relevant experience and transferrable skills for a corporate M&A practice at a Big Law firm.
If you already have a few firm offers under your belt from pre-OCI job fairs, then you already have a strong safety net. Thus, you don’t really need to bid on “safety” firms – save those bids for more prestigious firms. Bid much less conservatively.
Striking a balance between getting into the best firm that you could ever get and avoiding the risk of striking out sounds difficult because your career is on the line. However, this process is just like applying to colleges. You may want to have a few “reach” options and “safety” options, while keeping the majority of your applications within reach (your “targets”).
Remember to use resources such as your law school’s career services, friends, and mentors. They can each help you polish your bid list. Nevertheless, if you are unsatisfied with the offers you receive after the job fair, you can always go through the process again in 3L OCI to “trade up” firms. Don’t forget that mass-mailing is always an option to secure more interviews. We wrote an article here about how to mass mail firms.
For details about how you can understand and navigate Big Law job fairs, we wrote an article here detailing the process and outlining what you should and shouldn’t do at these fairs to get a job.