In Wake of Recession, Corporations Recruit Directly From Law School Campuses, versus Law Firms

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According to the August 12th wsj.com article, ''Cut the Law Firms, Keep the Lawyers'', Hewlett Packard, the world's largest technology company, was one of the first companies to forgo law firms as a resource for recruiting talent. And although any type of training comes with its own price tag and set of opportunity costs, companies like HP are apparently achieving cost savings that warrant this shift.

Hewlett Packard used to hire lawyers with five to seven years of experience, but shifted toward law school recruiting in 2009. Per the wsj.com article, the company plans to send HP attorneys to over a dozen law schools this year to recruit third year law students for full-time positions in California and Texas. The recruits will work in the areas of entry-level litigation, intellectual property, corporate and commercial law matters. HP's plan is to train the new recruits in-house, as well as train them in conjunction with several of the law firms whose services it retains, including Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

Michael Holston, HP's general counsel, was quoted as saying of the company's campus recruitment that: ''I think it's the wave of the future. We like to think that you can do anything at Hewlett Packard that you're going to do at a law firm, except that you're not going to get the same in courtroom trial experience.'' Holston also explained that, because of the recession, many law firms had cut back on student hiring, thus presenting the recruiting opportunity for HP - in essence, one's loss was another's gain.

The downside is that for these new recruits, the pay is less. Per the wsj.com article, new recruits will earn a salary of $115,000 per year, as well as a signing bonus of $15,000, for a total of $130,000 per annum; that's an estimated $45,000 less than one might earn at a major New York firm. For HP and other companies that have made the shift to finding and training recruits, critics attest a company's legal department is should not be training future lawyers but instead be serving the business.

Pharma giant Pfizer used to hire attorneys with at least seven years of experience with a major firm. However, the company recently recruited a handful of third-years from Harvard and Yale law schools, and plans to continue with the program in the fall.

Amy Schulman, Pfizer Inc. general counsel was quoted as saying in the wsj.com article: ''We need the services of first years and we need to train a generation of lawyers who know how to respond to what clients need.''

Graduate of Northwestern University School of Law Dargie Anderson Bowersock was quoted as saying per the wsj.com article: ''I expected to go to a law firm. That's the traditional path.'' She worked at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in the summer in 2008 and 2009, but was told that because of the recession, her start date would be deferred, along with other summer associates. In October of 2009, she interviewed with HP, and joined its corporate group the following October.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

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