Entry-Level Recruiting Remains Strong Through 2007

Consistent with the relative strength of the overall legal economy, all of the markers that measure the strength of hiring of new lawyers, such as recruiting for summer programs and summer program outcomes, remained strong over the last four years, though they have not matched the high levels seen 8-10 years ago. Based on information provided by NALP members about fall 2007 recruiting, the market for entry-level legal employment maintained its fast pace despite some overall weakening of the national and legal economies in late 2007. This is according to Perspectives on Fall 2007 Law Student Recruiting, an annual report on 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. The average number of offers made by employers to current second-year law students for summer 2008 positions was 39 offers per firm, a level not seen since before 2001. The acceptance rate for summer programs was very close to that of the prior year, at 29.1%. The median class size for summer 2007 was six, unchanged from summer 2006, although the average size increased from 11 to 13, driven by a few very large programs of more than 100. Among the report’s findings:

OCI Activity

Over half of schools (56%) reported an increase of 5% or more in the number of employers on campus, and 32% reported a change of less than 5%. These percentages varied somewhat by region.. For example, 41% of schools in the Midwest reported an increase of 5% or more, whereas 71% of schools reporting from the Northeast did so.

On the employer side, 39% reported visiting the same number of schools in their recruiting efforts. The nationwide median number of schools at which employers recruited was eight, 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.

Job Fairs

Nearly all schools responding participated in one or more job fairs, and one-third participated in more than ten. Schools in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions were more likely to participate in more than ten job fairs, with 43% and 41%, respectively, doing so. In contrast, one-quarter of schools in the West reported that level of participation. Firms in the Northeast were most likely to participate in job fairs compared to those in other regions. About 25% of responding employers did not participate in any job fairs, but 57% reported participating in two or more.

Callbacks, Offers, and Acceptances

Most summer program participants (93%) received an offer for an associate position, and 77% of these offers were accepted. The median class size for summer programs was six; the average size was 13. Summer programs were the largest in New York City with a median of 22 and average of 33, and in Dallas, with a median and an average of 17. Both the offer and acceptance rates increased compared with 2006, when the figures were 91% and 73%, respectively.

Figures for 2007 thus suggest that firms are maintaining the summer program sizes seen in recent years, but at a level that has not yet matched the average of 14 and a median of 8.5 in 2000. The overall offer rates for the past four years, however, are the highest since 1995 and either match or exceed the 90% reached in 2000. Acceptance rates continue to be well above the 66% rate of the late 1990s and 2000.

This year’s report also provides information on the length and ending dates for summer programs. Summer programs in 2006 were typically 10 to 12 weeks long, regardless of firm size, similar to recent years. Almost three-quarters of offices reported summer programs of either 10, 11, or 12 weeks, although the lengths reported ranged from 4 to 17 weeks.

On a regional basis, the Southeast and Midwest varied the most from the norm, with shorter programs, especially six-week programs, much more common in the Southeast (37%); areas in the Southeast where six-week programs were common include Charlotte, Dallas, and Tennessee. Some of these firms host two six-week sessions. In the Midwest 56% of firms reported holding a twelve-week program. Twelve-week programs were most commonly reported by offices in Chicago and Missouri. Most programs ended in early to mid-August, as has been the case in recent years for which NALP has compiled this information. The end dates reported ranged from June 22 to as late as the third week of September.

Employers issued a median of 46 and an average of 93 callback invitations to current second-year students for summer 2008 programs. Nationwide, 72% of these callback invitations were accepted. Overall, 60% of callback interviews resulted in an offer, with a median of 15 offers per employer. About 29% of the offers made to Class of 2009 students for 2008 summer programs were accepted, a figure that has fluctuated some over the past ten years and is now at a level similar to that of the late 1990s.

This level of callback activity is somewhat higher than in 2006, when the average and median number of callback invitations were 82 and 42, respectively. Despite the overall upward trend over the past seven years, the volume of interviewing has not yet returned to the level of 2000, when the average was 95 and the median was 55.

For large firms of 251 or more attorneys, about two-thirds of callback invitations to second-year students resulted in offers, compared with about 39% in firms of 100 or fewer attorneys. However, acceptance rates were higher at firms of 100 or fewer attorneys, almost half, compared with about 27% in firms of 251 or more 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 133 offers to second-year students for summer 2008. Acceptance rates were lowest at firms in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Jose, where about one-quarter of offers were accepted. Acceptance rates were highest in Raleigh, Tennessee, and Portland, OR, at over half.

About 38% of survey respondents, or 179 employers, reported recruiting of third-year students not previously employed by them. This level of activity is similar to that for the prior four years. However, it is not at the level of 1999 and 2000, when almost two-thirds of respondents recruited third-years. The median number of callback invitations was five, and most of these callback invitations (81%) were accepted. About 38% of these interviews resulted in offers, 62% of which were accepted. The level of activity was highest by far in the Northeast, with a median of 15.5 and an average of 26 callbacks. At the city level, New York City reported the greatest volume, with a median of 19 and average of 31 callback invitations. Acceptance rates varied widely, from 20% in Los Angeles to 70% or more in Philadelphia and Missouri.

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