Half of law firms surveyed made fewer summer associate offers last year; were pay hikes to blame?

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Law firm recruiting for entry-level lawyers was robust again last year. But the lack of growth suggests that recruiting volumes might have peaked, according to a report by the National Association for Law Placement.

For the first time in four years, half of the law firms surveyed said they made fewer summer associate offers than the previous year, according to a NALP press release (PDF) and report (PDF). That is “a marked change from the previous two years where most firms reported that they made more offers than the previous year,” the report says.

NALP executive director James Leipold said it’s unclear if associate salary increases contributed to a slight dampening in recruiting volumes. “From the 30,000-foot level,” he said in the report, “it is clear that law firms continue to face pressure to carefully evaluate lawyer staffing levels at every juncture.”

The percentage of callback interviews that resulted in offers for summer positions declined only slightly last year, decreasing from 53.8 to 53.3 percent. In 2006 and 2007, before the economic downturn, the percentage was 62.7 and 60 percent. The low was 36.4 percent in 2009.

Among employers of all sizes, the median number of offers also decreased slightly, from 12 to 11.5. The high was 15 in 2007, and the low was seven in 2009.

Leipold said in the report that small summer associate programs are the norm, although in New York “the competition for top talent remains fierce.” He also said in the press release that law school graduating class sizes would continue to shrink through at least 2019, leaving fewer students competing for jobs.

About 400 employers, mostly law firms, provided information on recruiting activity. More than 70 percent of the responses were from law firms with more than 250 lawyers.




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