How Fall Recruiting for Summer Programs Has Changed Over Time and Fluctuated During Times of Uncertainty

NALP Bulletin+
February 2022

As the recruiting cycle for summer 2023 programs is scheduled to begin in just a few short months, the topic of target class sizes for these programs and how to achieve those desired yields may soon become a subject of discussion within law firms. NALP’s annual Perspectives on Law Student Recruiting report has long documented summer program sizes and outcomes, as well as the level of fall recruiting activity for 2Ls and those outcomes. We know, for example, that offer acceptance rates rose to close to or above 40% during the Great Recession, as well as during the recruiting cycle for summer 2021 programs, when there was still much economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This compares to acceptance rates of about 30% in more prosperous times, such as those immediately preceding the Great Recession. Likewise, recruiting volumes, measured by callback invitations, have fluctuated over time.

There is an additional question that NALP's research can answer: How many callback interviews are needed to result in one accepted offer for the summer program? This question was most recently explored in a July 2019 Bulletin+ column, and the answer has changed somewhat over the 2 most recent recruiting cycles, which have inevitably been impacted in many ways by the pandemic. As shown in Table 1, which compiles a selection of fall recruiting measures over the past 23 recruiting seasons (a period which includes a wide range of economic conditions), the number of callback interviews needed to result in one accepted offer has usually been in the 5-6 range, with a few exceptions. However, during the fall 2020 recruiting cycle, which extended into spring 2021 due to pandemic-related OCI timing changes, the number of interviews needed to result in one accepted offer fell below 5 for the first time during this time period, albeit just barely so, at 4.9 interviews. For fall 2021, the number of callback interviews needed fell even further to 4.7 interviews.

Of course, these figures are averages and reflect survey responses for each year across a range of firm sizes and geographic regions. And although acceptance rates vary by firm size, the callback interview ratio in fall 2021 varied only from 4.6 interviews at firms of more than 700 lawyers to 5.3 interviews at the smallest firms of 100 or fewer lawyers. Regionally, there was more variability — with offices in the West/Rocky Mountain region reporting the smallest number of callback interviews (4.1) to result in one accepted offer compared to 5.4 callback interviews in the Mid-Atlantic region. Information for selected cities is presented in Chart 1. Of those locations with at least 10 offices reporting data, areas in Florida were found on both ends of the spectrum. Locations in Florida outside of Miami had the lowest number of callback interviews needed to result in one accepted offer (3.4), while the Miami area had the highest (5.8).

Although we are still unsure if smaller callback ratios will be the norm post-pandemic, it may still be worthwhile for individual law offices to compare trends over time in their own recruiting ratios — that is, how many callback interviews were required to yield one accepted offer for the summer program. For individual offices the actual number may be higher or lower than the national figures given some of the differences noted by firm size and region, but if there are significant variations in the ratio year-over-year, it may be useful to attempt to identify the factors or unique circumstances that caused changes. For example, as noted in student responses and comments from NALP’s Survey for Law Students Who Interviewed with Law Firms for Summer 2022, firm culture, and the people that students met during interviews were very influential on students’ final decisions about which offer to accept. Attempting to identify and address the factors impacting your recruiting ratios can assist in planning for future recruiting cycles.

Additional findings from NALP’s Perspectives on 2021 Law Student Recruiting will be available in early March 2022 at:

Table 1. Selected Measures of Fall Recruiting for Summer Programs, Fall 1999 - 2021

During Fall:
Number of Callback Invitations Per Office % of Callback Invitations Accepted % of Offers Accepted # of Callback Interviews Needed
to Result in One Accepted Offer
Median Average
2021 31 72 74.4% 37.3% 4.7
2020* 30 75 78.3 41.2 4.9
2019 38 84 78.0 36.5 5.4
2018 35 89 77.0 34.9 5.4
2017 39 93 78.5 34.4 5.6
2016 38 94 76.9 33.2 5.7
2015 39 92 77.5 32.7 5.7
2014 35 87 77.2 33.8 5.7
2013 30 74 78.1 35.4 6.0
2012 30 58 79.2 38.2 5.9
2011 33 61 77.5 37.1 5.8
2010 29 57 80.9 40.4 6.2
2009 30 53 83.5 42.8 6.4
2008 40 86 73.9 32.5 6.6
2007 46 93 72.2 29.1 5.7
2006 42 82 72.7 28.8 5.7
2005 48 86 72.3 30.3 5.5
2004 42 82 75.8 31.2 5.7
2003 37 74 77.7 31.4 6.0
2002 33 60 78.5 35.1 5.7
2001 36 66 77.0 34.9 5.6
2000 55 95 73.0 31.0 5.2
1999 53 87 74.7 29.0 5.4

* The year 2020 includes recruiting that took place through spring 2021 due to pandemic-related OCI timing changes.
Source: NALP's Perspectives on Law Student Recruiting, 1999 - 2021, and additional compilations from NALP's annual Survey of Legal Employers on Recruiting.

Chart 1. Number of Callback Interviews Needed to Result in One Accepted Summer 2022 Program Offer, for Selected Cities

Note: Includes cities with at least 10 offices reporting data. Cities in orange represent locations where the number of callback interviews needed is below the national figure of 4.7, while cities in blue represent locations where the number of callback interviews needed exceeds the national figure.
Source: NALP's 2021 Survey of Legal Employers on Recruiting

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