Imagine participating in OCI and landing a call back interview at a small Bay Area firm. After acing the call back and receiving a job offer, the firm rescinds the offer less than two weeks later.
That is the story of a fellow 2L (who would like to remain anonymous), and I can't help but feel sorry for them. In this case, the firm in question is not a member of NALP. This student did not do anything that would force the firm to drop the offer. Instead, they fell victim to a firm that overestimated their future needs. This problem is pervasive at NALP-member firms, as well. While the student would have a 45 day window to accept an offer from a NALP-member firm, that window is not as much protection as one would think.
In the face of NALP rules, firms have been informing people with standing offers that the firm screwed up and overestimated their summer associate capacity for the summer 2009. Abovethelaw has more details here, here, here, and here, where they are repeating the mantra that students should accept summer offers with haste.
While I have not heard of big firms flat out rescinding offers in defiance of NALP rules, if you receive a heads up phone call about an oversubscribed summer class, you can bet that you are right on the edge and the firm is trying to do you a "favor" by pushing you to chose another option. Of course, this assumes that you have other employment options, and considering the souring economy and the dissolution of some law firms, I doubt that most students are lucky enough to pick among multiple summer offers.
Even if you are able to accept an offer before a firm rescinds it, there is a storm on the horizon. If you do accept an offer from a firm with a bulging summer class, you may find yourself competing with fellow summers for a job offer after graduation. Your experience over the summer may not be as rich because you have to prove that you can get the job done better than your fellow summer associates rather than just demonstrating that you can get the job done on your own - the bar is set high, the pressure is on, and there are no guarantees like we've seen in previous (richer) years.
All this sounds like a great recipe for a terrible summer experience, if you ask me.