Fall Legal Recruiting: Firms Face More Competition for Summer Hiring

All of the markers that measure the strength of the hiring of new lawyers, such as recruiting for summer programs and summer program outcomes, have remained robust and steady over the last several years. Based on information provided by NALP members about fall 2006 recruiting, the market for entry-level legal employment has maintained the fast pace of the past few years. This is according to Perspectives on Fall 2006 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 2Ls for summer positions remained at 37 offers per firm for the 2007 summer program, the same as for summer 2006, and the highest levels since hiring for summer 2001. Moreover, the acceptance rate for summer programs has dropped to the level of the late nineties, suggesting more competition for summer hires. Among the report's findings:

OCI Activity

About 40% of schools reported an increase of 5% or more in the number of employers on campus, but a nearly equal percentage, 42%, reported a change of less than 5%. These figures varied somewhat, but not greatly, by region.

On the employer side, 42% reported visiting the same number of schools in their recruiting efforts. The nationwide median number of schools at which employers recruited was nine, with firms of 100 or fewer attorneys and those reporting from the 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 49% 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 56% and 70%, respectively, doing so. In contrast, one-quarter of schools in the West reported that level of participation. Firms in the Northeast and West were most likely to participate in job fairs compared to those in other regions. About 20% of responding employers did not participate in any job fairs, but 61% reported participating in two or more.

Callbacks, Offers, and Acceptances

Most summer program participants (91%) received an offer for an associate position, and 73% of these offers were accepted. The median class size for summer programs was six; the average size was 11. Summer programs were the largest in New York City with a median of 12 and average of 27, and in Chicago, with a median of 14 and an average of 20. Both the offer and acceptance rates were similar to those for 2005.

Figures for 2006 thus suggest the same larger summer program sizes and similar outcomes seen in the prior two 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 rate for the past three years has, however, again matched the 90% mark seen in the late 1990s and 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 2005 and 2004. Almost three-quarters of offices reported summer programs of either 10, 11, or 12 weeks, although the lengths reported ranged from 5 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 (33%); in the Midwest 61% of firms reported holding a twelve-week program. Areas in the Southeast where six-week programs were common include Austin, Charlotte, and Tennessee. Often these firms host two six-week sessions. Twelve-week programs were most commonly reported by offices in Wilmington and Minneapolis. 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 16 to as late as the third week of September.

Employers issued a median of 42 and an average of 82 callback invitations to second-year students. Nationwide, 73% of these callback invitations were accepted. Almost two-thirds of callback interviews (63%) resulted in an offer, with a median of 15 offers per employer. About 29% of the offers made to Class of 2008 students for 2007 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 lower than in 2005, when the average and median number of callback invitations were 86 and 48, respectively, but identical to that of 2004. Despite the upward trend over the past six 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 42% in firms of 100 or fewer attorneys. However, acceptance rates were higher at firms of 100 or fewer attorneys, around 45%, compared with about 28% 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 113 offers to second-year students for summer 2007. Acceptance rates were lowest at firms in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Diego, where between 23% and 27% of offers were accepted. Acceptance rates were highest in Austin, at 57%, followed by Newark and North Carolina, at about 48%.

About 38% of survey respondents, or 137 employers, reported recruiting of third-year students not previously employed by them. This level of activity is similar to that for the prior three years, and when compared with fall 2002, activity in each of the four most recent years has been both higher and more widespread. 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 (87%) were accepted. About 44% of these interviews resulted in offers, 59% of which were accepted. The level of activity was highest by far in the Northeast, with a median of 14 and an average of 24 callbacks. At the city level, New York City reported the greatest volume, with a median of 17 and average of 30 callback invitations. Acceptance rates ranged from about half in New York City to over 80% in Atlanta. /p>

The full report, including all of the data tables, is available a free downloadable PDF at www.nalp.org/assets/549_06perspectives.pdf.

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