Fall Legal Recruiting Increases Modestly

The market for entry-level legal employment is continuing to expand, albeit slowly and with great regional variation, according to Perspectives on Fall 2004 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. Overall, rates of on-campus interviewing and participation in job fairs generally either increased or at least remained relatively constant. Both the average number of offers and the offer rate for 2005 summer associate positions were up, and the size of summer classes in 2004 was comparable to that in 2003. Additionally, among employers who recruited third-year students, the volume of this recruiting increased modestly. Among the review's findings:

OCI Activity

About 38% of law schools reported a change of less than 5% in the number of employers on campus, and 46% 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 Midwest and 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 34% reported a decrease of more than 5%. Regional variations are apparent: schools in the Southeast were most likely to report an increase of 5% or more, with 40% doing so; in the Northeast, just 16% did so. Decreases of 5% or more were most common at schools in the Northeast -- 42% -- while changes of less than 5% were most common at schools in the Mid-Atlantic and West/Rocky Mountain regions, about 44%.

Job Fairs

Nearly all schools responding participated in one or more job fairs, and 35% participated in eight or more. Schools in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions were more likely to participate in eight or more job fairs with 44% and 53%, respectively, doing so. In contrast, about one-quarter of schools in the Southeast and West reported that level of participation and one-third of schools in the Midwest did so. Firms in the Northeast were most likely to participate in job fairs compared to those in other regions. About 39% of responding employers did not participate in any job fairs, but an equal percentage reported participating in two or more.

Callbacks, Offers and Acceptances

Most summer program participants (91%) received an offer for an associate position and 72% 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 15.5 and average of 26, followed by Philadelphia, with a median of 15.5 and an average of 15. The 2004 offer rate of 91% represents an increase from 87% in 2003, while the acceptance rate declined from the 77% figure for 2003.

Figures for 2004 are thus very similar to those for 2003 and 2002 with respect to summer class size-and in contrast to a median of 8.5 and an average of 14 in 2000. The overall offer rate, however, once again matched the 90% mark seen in the late 90's and 2000. Despite the decline compared to 2003, acceptance rates continued to be well above the 66% rate of the late 90's and 2000.

This year's report provides new information on the length and ending dates for summer programs. Summer programs in 2004 were typically 10 to 12 weeks long, regardless of firm size, as was the case in 2002. Over two-thirds of offices reported summer programs of either 10, 11, or 12 weeks, although the lengths reported ranged from 4 to 18 weeks.

On a regional basis, the Southeast and Midwest varied the most from the norm, with shorter programs, especially 6-week programs much more common the Southeast (31%); in the Midwest over half of firms reported holding a 12-week program. Cities in the Southeast where 6-week programs were common include Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. Twelve-week programs were most commonly reported by offices in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Minneapolis. Most programs ended in mid-August, again as was the case in 2002 and 2003. The end dates reported ranged from June 18th to as late as September 24th.

Employers issued a median of 42 and an average of 82 callback invitations to second-year students. Nationwide, over three-fourths of these callback invitations (76%) were accepted. Over half of callback interviews (57%) resulted in an offer, with a median of 13 offers per employer. Just under one in three of the offers made to Class of 2006 students for 2005 summer programs were accepted, a figure that comports with recent years.

This level of callback activity is somewhat higher than in 2003, when the median and average number of invitations were 37 and 74, respectively. The last four 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 have not yet been fully recouped.

For large firms of 501 or more attorneys, 62% of callback invitations to second-year students resulted in offers, compared with about 40% in firms of 100 or fewer attorneys. However, acceptance rates were higher at firms of 100 or fewer attorneys, around 45%, compared with 35% 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, not surprisingly, reported by far the highest level of activity in callback invitations and interviews of second-year students, making an average of 116 offers to second-year students for summer 2005. Acceptance rates were lowest at firms in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, where between 21% and 27% of offers were accepted. Acceptance rates were highest in Virginia locations other than those in the Washington, D.C. area, Louisiana, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Portland, where between 50% and 60% of offers were accepted.

About one-third of survey respondents, or 172 employers, reported recruiting of third-year students not previously employed by them. This is about the same percentage as in 2002 and 2003, 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 of these callback invitations (85%) were accepted. About 46% of these interviews resulted in offers, 58% of which were accepted. The level of activity was highest by far in the Northeast, with a median of 8 and an average of 16 callbacks. At the city and state level, New York City, along with Boston, reported the greatest volume, with medians of 9 and 8.5, respectively. Acceptance rates ranged from 38% in Atlanta to 59% in Boston.

Full report (PDF format)

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