Fall Legal Recruiting Picks Up Slightly

The pace of recruiting in fall 2003 quickened modestly over that of the prior fall, according to Perspectives on Fall 2003 Law Student Recruiting, an annual review of selected aspects of fall recruitment activity and the experiences of both legal employers and law schools published by NALP. Nonetheless it appears that the employment market for entry-level and summer associates continued to be affected by lingering weaknesses in the economy. Among the review's findings:

OCI Activity

About 40% of law schools reported a change of less than 5% in the number of employers on campus, and 45% of law firms reported visiting the same number schools in their recruiting efforts. The nationwide median number of schools at which employers recruited was seven, with firms of 100 or fewer attorneys and those reporting from the Southeast most likely to have maintained the number of schools they visited.

Nationwide, just over one-quarter of law schools (28%) reported an increase of 5% or more in the number of employers on campus and 32% reported a decrease of more than 5%. Regional variations are apparent: schools in the Southeast and West Rocky Mountain regions were more likely to report an increase of 5% or more, with 36% doing so; few schools in the Mid-Atlantic, less than 1 in 10, did so. Decreases of 5% or more were most common at schools in the Northeast -- 43% -- while changes of less than 5% were most common at schools in the Mid-Atlantic region, 67%.

Job Fairs

Nearly all schools responding participated in one or more job fairs, and 34% participated in eight or more. Firms in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region were most likely to participate in job fairs compared to those in other regions. Schools in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions were also far more likely to participate in eight or more job fairs with 50% and 69%, respectively, doing so. In contrast, less than one in five schools in the Southeast and West reported that level of participation and one-third of schools in the Midwest did so. About 41% of responding employers did not participate in any job fairs and 37% reported participating in two or more.

Callbacks, Offers and Acceptances

Most summer program participants (87%) received an offer for an associate position and 77% of these offers were accepted. The median class size for summer programs was five; the average size was 10. By either measure summer programs were the largest in New York City with a median of 18 and average of 25, followed by Boston with a median of 14 and an average of 19, and Atlanta with a median of 12 and an average of 21. The 2003 offer rate of 87% represents an increase from 81% in 2002 as does the acceptance rate of 77% compared with 74% in 2002.

Figures for 2003 are very similar to those for 2002 with respect to summer class size, and are in marked contrast to an average of 14 and a median of 8.5 in 2000, and an average of 12 and a median of 6 in 2001. The overall offer rate, however, approached the 90% mark seen in the late 90's and 2000. Acceptance rates continued to be well above the 66% rate of the late 90's and 2000.

Employers issued a median of 37 and an average of 74 callback invitations to second-year students. Nationwide, over three-fourths of these callback invitations (78%) were accepted. Just over half of callback interviews resulted in an offer, with a median of 11 offers per employer. Just under one in three of the offers made to Class of 2005 students for 2004 summer programs were accepted.

This level of activity is somewhat higher than in 2002, when the median and average number of callback invitations were 33 and 60, respectively. The last three years, nonetheless, are in contrast to an average of 95 and a median of 55 in 2000, suggesting considerable cut backs in recruiting in fall 2001 that carried over into 2002 and still lingered in 2003.

For large firms of 501 or more attorneys, 59% of callback invitations to second-year students resulted in offers, compared with somewhat more than one-third in firms of 100 or fewer attorneys. However, acceptance rates were higher at firms of 100 or fewer attorneys, around 50%, compared with 32% in firms of 251-500 attorneys and 29% in firms of more than 500 attorneys.

Analyses at the city level revealed wide variations. For example, employers in New York City reported by far the highest level of activity in callback invitations and interviews of second-year students, making an average of 110 offers to second-years for summer 2004. Acceptance rates were lowest at firms in New York City, Miami, and the San Francisco and San Jose areas, where one-quarter or less of offers were accepted. Acceptance rates were highest in Austin, Virginia locations other than those in the Washington, D.C. area, Charlotte, Tampa, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Michigan, St. Louis, and Denver, where half or more of offers were accepted.

About one-third of survey respondents, or 140 employers, reported recruiting of third-year students not previously employed by them. This is about the same percentage as in 2002, and below the level of 2001, when about 43% of respondents reported recruiting third-year students. The median number of callback invitations was 4, and most (87%) of these callback invitations were accepted. About 39% of these interviews resulted in offers, almost two-thirds of which were accepted. The level of activity was highest by far in the Northeast, with a median of 7 and an average of 17 callbacks. At the city and state level, New York City, New Jersey and San Francisco reported the greatest volume, with medians of 6.5, 11, and 8, respectively. Acceptance rates ranged from 25% in San Jose to 89% in New Jersey and San Francisco.

Full report (PDF format)

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