Summer Programs - A Retrospective

NALP Bulletin, June 2016

The downsizing of summer programs in the wake of the Great Recession is well known and has been documented in a variety of ways. For example, NALP's annual survey on recruiting and summer program outcomes has found that the median summer program size among offices/firms with a 2L summer program dropped from 6 in 2009 to 4 in 2010, and only in 2015 did the median recover to 6. Likewise, the number of law school graduates taking jobs in firms of more than 250 lawyers dropped from about 4,850 for the Class of 2010 (graduates who would have summered in 2009) to about 3,750 for the Class of 2011 (graduates who would have summered in 2010).

This column takes a third approach to documenting these changes by taking a look at summer programs for both 2Ls and 1Ls as reported in the 2010 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (covering the 2008-2010 period) and the 2015 NALP Directory of Legal Employers (covering the 2013-2015 period). For the offices/firms listing in the 2010 directory, aggregate summer 2L employment was off by more than half in 2010 as compared with 2008, and the average number of 2Ls per program went from 10.3 to 4.5, reflecting both fewer summer associates per office or firm, and more offices/firms with no summer associates at all in 2010. The percentage of offices reporting 1Ls or 2Ls dropped from 94% for summer 2008 to 78% for summer 2010. For the most recent three-year period, averages have recovered to about 7 per class overall, with totals ranging from 5,800 to 6,200, and a return to more than 90% of offices reporting a 2L summer program in 2015. Although the figures for the two time periods are based on listings from two different directories (2010 and 2015) and so are not true trends, they do allow a rough comparison since the nature of the directories has not changed greatly. Both the volumes and the averages point to an improvement over 2010, but not close to a return to the levels in 2008 and 2009.

Looking at figures by firm size shows that summer program average sizes in firms of 250 or fewer were about the same in 2015 as they were in 2010, whereas in larger firms averages that were 4 to 6 summer associates per office/firm in 2010 have recovered to 7 to 10 summer associates per office/firm in the three most recent years.

As might be expected, the extent to which firms have 1Ls in their summer program also waxes and wanes with the economy. Back in the summer of 2008, over half of offices/firms reported hosting 1Ls; by 2009 and 2010 this was down to one-third, and in the most recent three-year period it has hovered in the 45% range, with an average of just over one 1L per office/firm — higher than in 2009 and 2010, but still below the 2008 level.

As is the case with 2Ls, recovery has been the greatest at the larger firms, whereas averages in firms of 250 or fewer lawyers are about what they were in 2010.

Looking at some of the larger cities in the directory (Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC), perhaps the most interesting finding is that the average class size in Los Angeles was the same in 2015 as in 2010, whereas every other city has seen at least some increase, especially New York, which stands out for equaling its 2009 average of about 22 summer associates per office/firm. No city has returned to its 2008 level. Levels in Houston stood at just under 8 summer associates per office/firm in 2013 and 2014 compared with 6.6 in 2010, or just over one more summer associate on average in 2013 and 2014 compared with 2010. But the differential increased to almost two summer associates per office by 2015; that is an average of 8.4 2Ls per office/firm in 2015 compared with 6.6 in 2010.

Average class sizes have not changed much in the past three years in Chicago and Washington, DC.

Offices in Houston were more likely to host 1Ls in 2008 — 65% of offices — and to hire more per office — 4.1 — compared with the other four cities, and even as the prevalence and numbers decreased by 2010, this pattern remained.

By 2015, 1L activity as measured by averages had more than recovered to 2010 levels, and in fact to 2009 levels. And in the case of Chicago the 51% of offices hosting 1Ls was at 2008 levels, though the average per office was lower. Interestingly, in the case of 1Ls, Los Angeles has more than recovered to its 2010 level. The average number of 1Ls By 2015, 1L activity as measured by averages had more than recovered to 2010 levels, and in fact to 2009 levels. And in the case of Chicago the 51% of offices hosting 1Ls was at 2008 levels, though the average per office was lower. Interestingly, in the case of 1Ls, Los Angeles has more than recovered to its 2010 level. The average number of 1Ls has been relatively steady in each of these cities in the most recent three years.

Notes on Methodology

These figures were largely compiled from the 2010 and 2015 NALP Directories of Legal Employers. Duplicative information — for example, a firm-wide form in addition to office-specific forms — was excluded as were forms with no summer associates reported in the three-year period. Forms where the “expected” numbers for either 2010 or 2015 were not reported were excluded. This includes forms where it was ambiguous as to whether the blank “expected” column meant “zero” or “TBD.” Forms for offices which had not been open for all three years covered by the form were excluded to the extent that this could be determined.

In cases where the form was missing figures for the first of the three years — e.g., 2008 in the 2010 directory and 2013 in the 2015 directory — those figures were looked up and cross-checked using the prior year’s directory, and these figures were used to fill in the grid. Forms where the cross-check wasn’t possible were excluded. Likewise some expected 2010 figures not reported in the 2010 directory could be filled in by checking the 2011 directory. Finally, a few forms were excluded where the numbers were questionable in the context of the entire grid and/or in comparison to a cross-check with a listing for the next year or the prior year. In particular, there still appears to be some confusion about the distinction between when the person was hired and when the person began work — and which is to be reported.


Table 1. Summer Program Volumes — 2008, 2009, and Expected 2010

   Summer 2008 Summer 2009 Summer 2010 Expected # of Offices
# of 1Ls # of 2Ls # of 1Ls # of 2Ls # of 1Ls # of 2Ls
Overall 1,815 11,443 728 9,179 614 5,067 1,116
By Firm Size (# of lawyers):
100 or fewer 204 611 123 528 109 391 174
101-250 364 1,361 177 1,117 162 742 178
251-500 379 1,965 144 1,555 119 928 243
501-700 162 1,301 76 956 49 486 124
701+ 706 6,205 208 5,023 175 2,520 397
Selected Cities:
Chicago 84 762 35 570 24 248 53
Houston 128 358 43 326 44 204 31
Los Angeles 69 568 19 501 21 292 66
New York 215 3,087 69 2,563 55 1,298 115
Washington, DC 160 1,356 34 1,113 25 637 104

Source: Compiled from the 2010-2011 NALP Directory of Legal Employers.

 

Table 2. Summer Program Average Sizes — 2008, 2009, and Expected 2010

   SUMMER 2008 SUMMER 2009 SUMMER 2010 EXPECTED
Average # of 1Ls % of Offices w/ 1Ls Average # of 2Ls % of Offices w/ 2Ls Average # of 1Ls % of Offices w/ 1Ls Average # of 2Ls % of Offices w/ 2Ls Average # of 1Ls % of Offices w/ 1Ls Average # of 2Ls % of Offices w/ 2Ls
Overall 1.6 53.0% 10.3 94.0% 0.7 33.0% 8.2 91.0% 0.6 28.0% 4.5 78.0%
By Firm Size (# of lawyers):
100 or fewer 1.2 46.0 3.5 91.0 0.7 37.0 3.0 89.0 0.6 32.0 2.2 78.0
101-250 2.0 65.0 7.6 90.0 1.0 47.0 6.3 93.0 0.9 42.0 4.2 85.0
251-500 1.6 50.0 8.1 93.0 0.6 31.0 6.4 89.0 0.5 30.0 3.8 68.0
501-700 1.3 49.0 10.5 91.0 0.6 31.0 7.7 89.0 0.4 25.0 3.9 73.0
701+ 1.8 53.0 15.6 95.0 0.5 26.0 12.7 94.0 0.4 21.0 6.3 82.0
Selected Cities:
Chicago 1.6 51.0 14.4 96.0 0.7 36.0 10.8 85.0 0.5 26.0 4.7 87.0
Houston 4.1 65.0 11.5 94.0 1.4 48.0 10.5 90.0 1.4 32.0 6.6 77.0
Los Angeles 1.0 41.0 8.6 92.0 0.3 17.0 7.6 92.0 0.3 21.0 4.4 83.0
New York 1.9 53.0 26.8 97.0 0.6 32.0 22.3 96.0 0.5 24.0 11.3 89.0
Washington, DC 1.5 48.0 13.0 95.0 0.3 23.0 10.7 93.0 0.2 15.0 6.1 84.0

Source: Compiled from the 2010-2011 NALP Directory of Legal Employers.

 

Table 3. Summer Program Volumes — 2013, 2014, and Expected 2015

   SUMMER 2013 SUMMER 2014 SUMMER 2015 EXPECTED # of Offices
# of 1Ls # of 2Ls # of 1Ls # of 2Ls # of 1Ls # of 2Ls
Overall 894 5,912 926 5,772 918 6,173 850
By Firm Size (# of lawyers):
    100 or few 82 253 80 224 67 253 101
    101-250 156 633 133 619 140 593 124
    251-500 193 941 206 872 200 848 158
    501-700 112 793 117 773 111 859 114
    701+ 351 3,292 390 3,284 400 3,620 353
By Selected Cities:
    Chicago 44 342 46 358 40 352 45
    Houston 68 227 61 224 62 245 29
    Los Angeles 29 299 32 271 40 275 63
    New York 84 1,738 94 1,707 101 1,932 87
    Washington, DC 51 713 68 638 62 692 83

Source: Compiled from the 2015-2016 NALP Directory of Legal Employers.

 

Table 4. Summer Program Average Sizes — 2013, 2014, and Expected 2015

   Summer 2013 Summer 2014 Summer 2015 Expected
Average # of 1Ls % of Offices w/ 1Ls Average # of 2Ls % of Offices w/ 2Ls Average # of 1Ls % of Offices w/ 1Ls Average # of 2Ls % of Offices w/ 2Ls Average # of 1Ls % of Offices w/ 1Ls Average # of 2Ls % of Offices w/ 2Ls
Overall 1.1 44.0% 7.0 87.0% 1.1 47.0% 6.8 87.0% 1.1 45.0% 7.3 93.0%
By Firm Size (# of lawyers):
100 or few 0.8 41.0 2.5 82.0 0.8 42.0 2.2 73.0 0.7 39.0 2.5 89.0
101-250 1.3 54.0 5.1 92.0 1.1 55.0 5.0 90.0 1.1 59.0 4.8 93.0
251-500 1.2 46.0 6.0 87.0 1.3 54.0 5.5 85.0 1.3 54.0 5.4 92.0
501-700 1.0 40.0 7.0 75.0 1.0 40.0 6.8 90.0 1.0 39.0 7.5 90.0
701+ 1.0 41.0 9.3 91.0 1.1 46.0 9.3 90.0 1.1 40.0 10.3 93.0
Selected Cities:
Chicago 1.0 49.0 7.6 87.0 1.0 51.0 8.0 96.0 0.9 51.0 7.8 91.0
Houston 2.3 45.0 7.8 86.0 2.1 52.0 7.7 93.0 2.1 55.0 8.4 90.0
Los Angeles 0.5 29.0 4.7 87.0 0.5 35.0 4.3 87.0 0.6 33.0 4.4 94.0
New York 1.0 38.0 20.0 97.0 1.1 44.0 19.6 97.0 1.2 46.0 22.2 97.0
Washington, DC 0.6 39.0 8.6 90.0 0.8 43.0 7.7 90.0 0.7 37.0 8.3 93.0

Source: Compiled from the 2015-2016 NALP Directory of Legal Employers.

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