Top 5 NALP Recruiting Rules


As you get ready to seek gainful employment for the summer or after graduation, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with National Association for Law Placement (NALP) and its recruiting rules.

About NALP

NALP was founded in August 1971.  According to former NALP President Albert C. Neimeth (1973-74), NALP hoped to address the “haphazard” methods of traditional law placement and encourage cooperation between law schools and legal employers.

Today, NALP continues its commitment to law placement and seeks to foster lifelong education and career development.  More importantly, NALP is to the law firm recruiting what the NCAA is to collegiate athletics.   They govern student eligibility, school support, and recruitment practices.   Thankfully; however, there are no sanctions for accepting compensation or gifts.

Recruiting Restrictions

Like the NCAA, NALP has rules galore.  Since, you’re likely too busy working on your job search to review them in full, we’ll recap the top 5 restrictions here.  Unless we specify below, this recap applies to both summer and full-time job seekers who will be joining their employer for the first time.

1) Your Offer Does Not Immediately Self-Destruct.  You’ll have, at a minimum, 2 weeks from the date of your offer letter to make a decision.  If you receive your offer before December 15 and aren’t headed to a small shop, you’ll get more time (28 days).

2) Silence Means You Lose.  You must be proactive and accept, decline or extend your offer.  If you don’t contact your employer by the deadline to extend your offer it will expire.  Extensions are not guaranteed and your request must be both reasonable and in good faith.

3) Public Sector Gets A Pass.  Unlike the synchronized swimming that is law firm recruiting, government and public interest folks operate on their own timetable.  So, if you can’t make up your mind between your passion for service and your pocketbook, don’t fret.  You can extend your law firm offer until April 1 and your employer is dragged kicking and screaming strongly encouraged to accept.

4) Free Market Capitalism is Dead.  Remember Monopoly, where you collected as many properties as you could? Sorry, such greedy abandon is frowned upon by NALP.  Instead, you as a civilized candidate can hold no more than 5 open offers at a time.  If you receive a sixth offer, you have one week to bring yourself back under the limit.

5) 1Ls Have Training Wheels.   Lest you forget law school is about learning, NALP protects you from yourself.   First-year students and legal employers are not permitted to have contact with each other until December 1.   Law schools can’t help with your job search (e.g., resume reviews, interview prep, or employer info) until November 1, but can provide unhelpful general information about the legal profession and career paths.

You can find the full text of rules and accompanying interpretations on the NALP website.


NALP, Principals and Standards for Law Placement and Recruiting Activities (effective April 20, 2012)

NALP, Principals and Standards Interpretations (effective March 9, 2010)

Neimeth, Albert C. NALP: The National Association for Law Placement, Cornell Law Forum (Student Ed.), 1972.

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Melinda Hightower

Melinda Hightower

Founder and Chair at Blueprint JD
Melinda Hightower is passionate about legal diversity, literature and community activism. When she’s not busy earning her keep as an attorney, she operates Blueprint JD, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to building diversity in the legal profession.


  1. Michael Alao, CPA

    August 19, 2012

    How does rule 5 apply to part-time students? More specifically, I completed my first year as a part-time student with a total of 23 credit hours. I am a 2L per my law school, but am I still considered a 1L for purposes of the NALP and your rule 5 above?

    Thank you.

    • Melinda Hightower

      August 21, 2012

      Michael, great question. NALP is less clear when it comes to part-time students. The rules explicitly allow first-year part-time students to use career services prior to November 1, but don’t address how summer hiring works. Keep in mind that the purpose of the NALP rules is two-fold: to prevent students from getting distracted from their studies as they make the law school transition and to prevent employers from cherry-picking candidates with early offers. Neither of those risks is present in your case because you’ve got multiple semesters under your belt. That, combined with your 2L class standing means the 1L rules likely won’t apply to you