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Summer Law School Hiring 2011

published November 17, 2010

Rebecca Neely
( 3 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
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According to a June 25th article at, the bleak legal climate - one reported to be the worst in history - is likely to continue. The class of 2010 is expected to fare poorly, according to Jim Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). The employment for the class of 2011 will likely be ‘very compromised,’ he was quoted as saying.

''The Class of 2012 will be the first class for which we might see some kind of uptick in employment,'' Leipold said. ''I'm not making a prediction that it will recover in 2012; I'm saying it probably won't recover much before then.''

A recent NALP study reported that the class of 2009 had an 88.3 percent employment rate, an elevated statistic due in part to temporary jobs and school job programs that offer grants and other stipends for work. The classes of 2010 and 2011 may see a lower rate because firms look to hire years in advance, Leipold said.

According to Leipold, when law students interview for large law firm summer programs in August, just before their second year of school, this is a make-or-break time. Often, obtaining a summer position is a great way to land a job after graduation.

Those law school graduates without previous employment with firms face an even tougher employment market, as only 3 percent of firms in 2009 reported recruiting third-year students who had not been summer associates, down from 25 percent in 2008, according to the NALP report.

The 2010 and 2011 classes had fewer summer opportunities, because many law firms drastically scaled back or got rid of their programs entirely. This summer, nearly 25 percent of firms have canceled their programs, Leipold said.

For example, at the Houston office of Baker Botts, a 750-member law firm with 13 locations worldwide, the summer program was cut by more than half to better fit the office's future capacity, according to hiring partner Cristina Rodriguez. There are currently 27 summer associates, down from 67 in 2008, at the global firm's largest office in Houston.

''It's an inexact science...but we have just really tried to calibrate what we're doing to what we perceive our needs are,'' Rodriguez said. She expects next year's summer program to be about the same size.

But is there an upside to all this bad news? According to Leipold, theoretically, since students in the class of 2012 will interview in August for programs next summer, more opportunities could be available.

''This was the most difficult year that I've seen in 20 years,'' said Paul Mahoney, dean of the University of Virginia law school. ''Our students were successful given the challenges that they faced, but they had to put much more effort in than they would have had to in a given year.''
However, according to an August 10th, 2010 blog posting at, Petal Modeste, Columbia Law School career dean was quoted as saying: “The market outlook appears to be better. Based on what I’m hearing from firm partners, I get the sense that they expect business in a year or two to be strong enough to keep new hires employed and productive.”

And, Modeste also believes that firms will be less apt this year to defer the start dates of summer associates who are offered jobs. Any deferrals, she added in a statement, should push back start dates by only a few months.

According to an August 10th New York Law Journal article, a number of New York’s law firms are expected to increase their summer hiring for 2011.

For example, Cravath is looking to hire about 70 to 80 summer associates, up from just 22 summer associates this year. Skadden plans to hire 100 summer associates firmwide, up from 78 this year.

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy had only16 summer associates in New York this year, compared to 60 in 2009. But for 2011, Milbank is looking to boost that number to up to 50, according to hiring partner Jay Grushkin.

''The workload justifies it,'' he said. ''We're firing on all cylinders and want to get back to more of a normal intake level.''

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