Fall Recruiting for Summer Programs - How Much Is Enough?

NALP Bulletin, July 2015

As summer programs wind down and fall recruiting begins, the topics of target sizes for the next year’s summer program and of how to achieve those targets and desired yields may come to the fore. NALP research has long documented summer program sizes and outcomes — and the level of fall recruiting activity for 2Ls and those outcomes — in the Perspectives on Fall Law Student Recruiting reports. So we know, for example, that offer acceptance rates rose to close to or above 40% during the recent recession, compared to about 30% in more prosperous times. Likewise recruiting volumes, measured by callback invitations, have gone up and down.

But there is an additional question that NALP’s research can answer — that is, how many callback interviews are needed to result in one accepted offer for the summer program? As it turns out, the answer to that question is surprisingly steady, even as recruiting volumes, acceptance rates, and summer class sizes have varied. As shown in the table accompanying this article, which compiles a selection of fall recruiting measures for the 16 most recent recruiting seasons (a period that also includes a wide variety of economic conditions), the number of callback interviews needed to result in one accepted offer has consistently been in the range of 5 to 6.

Of course these figures are averages and reflect survey responses for each year across a range of firm sizes, but nonetheless offer a metric that has been remarkably stable. And although acceptance rates vary by firm size, with the aggregate acceptance rate generally higher at smaller firms, the ratio in fall 2014 varied only from 5.5 to 5.9, in no particular pattern relative to firm size.

As further evidence of the stability of this measure, one can compare it to the number of jobs in firms of more than 100 lawyers taken by new graduates — an approximate proxy for the total number of summer associates in the summer two years prior — for the class year with the largest number and one with a smaller number. For example, Class of 2008 grads took almost 8,500 jobs in firms of this size; during the fall of 2006 when these grads would have been recruited for the summer program, the ratio was 5.7. The Class of 2013 found more than 2,000 fewer such jobs, yet during fall 2011 recruiting, the ratio was 5.8.

It would be an interesting exercise for individual law offices to compare their recruiting ratios — that is how many callback interviews were required to yield one accepted offer for the summer program — over time. For individual offices the actual number may be higher or lower than the national figures, but regardless of what the number is, the national data suggest that for most firms it is likely to be fairly constant over time. If not, and if instead there are big changes to the number year over year or there are interruptions in the pattern, it would be worth trying to identify the factors or unique circumstances that caused changes that have not been evident at the national level despite large economic changes since 1999.

Table 1. Selected Measures of Fall Recruiting for Summer Programs

Recruiting During Fall: Number of Callback Invitations % of Callback Invitations Accepted % of Offers Accepted # of Callback Interviews Needed
to Result in One Accepted Offer
Median Average
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

Source: NALP, Perspectives on Fall Law Student Recruiting, 1999-2014, and additional compilations.

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