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Accepting and Declining

How to Accept an Offer

Irrespective of how an offer is communicated to you (by phone, email, or standard mail), you should contact the employer by phone as soon as possible to acknowledge receipt of the offer. Even if you are not ready to accept the offer initially, you shouldn't wait more than 24 hours to let the employer know that you have received the offer and are seriously contemplating it. When you call to acknowledge, give the employer an estimate of when you will be able to make a final decision. While you shouldn't box yourself into an unrealistic deadline, don't leave the employer up in the air for fear you will seem unenthusiastic or indecisive.

If, on receipt of the offer, you know that you want to take the job, a telephonic response is also the best avenue of communication. Place your call to the attorney in charge of hiring or the person who communicated the offer to you. If you cannot reach him/her and get voicemail or an assistant, ask that s/he call you back.

A typical message might be the following:

"This is Jane Doe, a student at Cornell Law School. I am very excited to have received an offer from your office and hope you will be able to call me back shortly to discuss it further. I can be reached at (607) 123-4567."

By making sure you speak directly with a decision maker, you can avoid miscommunications which can lead to problems. If you are unable to speak directly with someone after trying to reach them by phone, it is appropriate to do one of two things:

  • Leave your acceptance in a voice message; or
  • Accept by email

Neither of these are 100% foolproof, as messages and emails can be lost. So you may want to ask the recipient to confirm receipt of the message with a quick call or email in return.

How to Decline an Offer

It is important to decline offers as promptly as possible, so that your fellow students may benefit from the “rolling offers.” This should be done tactfully, both for your own sake and for the reputation of the Cornell Law School. Your letter should express your appreciation of the offer and your high regard for the employer, indicating that it was difficult to make the final decision. Do not burn any bridges. You may want to reapply to this employer sometime in the future. Also, remember that these may be your future colleagues in the Bar Association.

Sample letter:

       It is with great regret that I write you this letter to inform you that I will not be able to accept your offer of employment for the upcoming summer.
       I have been fortunate in receiving a number of offers and only after considerable thought and soul searching have I been able to make a decision on which offer to accept.
       I assure you that I have the highest opinion of (your organization), and I look forward to practicing in Hartford this summer and hope to see you then.