For those of you who have been living under a rock, EIP is the early interview program in August that sets up eager 1Ls with attractive Biglaw firms for 2L summer and beyond. It is roughly set up like law student sorority or fraternity rush on steroids.
First, you make a bid list of the firms you’d like to interview with, and then a computer spits out your interview schedule based on some algorithm of spots available and bid position, which no one really understands. Apparently, there’s some way to use math to beat the system and guarantee interviews at the firms you want. I choose to believe that this is an urban legend, and that, for the most part, your interview schedule is blind luck.
Next, you spend four days in the bowels of hell, I mean, Times Square, in oppressive August heat, wearing “conservative suits” that make you look like you’re attending a funeral. Each interview is 20 minutes and can really only be described as speed dating. Inevitably, you will have multiple interviews scheduled back-to-back on different floors and will have to frantically sprint up the stairs to make it (pro tip: take off your heels, ladies). If it goes well, however, you get a callback and then an offer (or offers) and will have a job before 2L even starts. For some people, like me, however, things don’t work out quite that well and you leave EIP disappointed with only sweat-stained dress shirts to show for it.
This spring, as the VP of Membership for the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), I helped to organize PILF’s annual “Is EIP for Me?” panel. For the sake of balance, we had some students on the panel that had not participated in EIP, and others who had participated, but had had some doubts going into it. In general, the purpose of the panel was to portray how students had balanced a commitment to public interest with the choice of whether or not to participate in EIP.
To my surprise, it was difficult to find, even within the PILF community, students who had opted out of EIP entirely. And it was even more difficult to hear from someone who had genuinely debated whether or not to do EIP at all up through the summer. It seemed as if, from my experience, that overwhelmingly those who opted out knew they wanted to do public interest (or anything non-firm) and were set on this before the onslaught of EIP events in 1L spring. Alternatively, EIP seemed to be the default.
In fact, most 1Ls that attended the PILF event seemed to already have their minds made up about EIP and they were probably just looking for some good advice about participating in it and some Roti Roll. As a 1L, you may have been to five different talks on EIP, but the remote possibility that the next one will offer you the holy grail of insight (and some non-pizza lunch) will keep you coming back.
I can’t put my finger on why exactly EIP is the default, perhaps because it is the path of least resistance to get to what is, objectively, a pretty sweet deal. Alternatively, picking a different route, like public interest, feels very much like forging one’s own path and seems to require a very strong desire to overcome the firm inertia. Nominally, many events, like the PILF one, are meant to help 1Ls decide whether or not they wish to participate at all in EIP. Realistically, however, most people have made up their minds by this point, or at the very least have not affirmatively chosen to opt out of the system. In its own right, it is useful to hear from 2Ls and 3Ls, who have gone through the process and lived to tell the tale. But, for me, these events fell short of truly exploring the decision of participating in EIP at a time when it would have been most useful to me.
Ultimately, I have only myself to blame for my EIP shortcomings. That said, after nine months and lots and lots of introspection (shout out to all my friends who put up with me), I do have some insights on the system. Although I went to many panels and informational sessions about EIP, I was never required to really think critically about the choice to participate itself. Although the opportunity to think about my career choice was clearly there, I never really did, perhaps because the path for EIP was so conveniently laid out. Instead, I would have benefited from discussions with OCS, SJI and older students earlier in 1L year.
Although groups like PILF have the best intentions in their panels, March and April is frankly too late. By then, in the throes of panels on how to navigate EIP and finals stress, most 1Ls are squarely on the path to EIP and the inertia to overcome to choose another route is even stronger. If these conversations happened sooner, picking public interest or non-Biglaw might not be “opting out,” but would instead be a true choice. For me, everything worked out and I ultimately decide that working at a firm was something I wished to pursue. I only wish that I had been pushed more to think about that decision earlier.