Fall Legal Recruiting Increases — Firms Proceed with Caution

The market for entry-level legal employment is continuing to gain strength, although regional variations and overall caution are evident, according to Perspectives on Fall 2005 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. Both the average number of offers and the offer rate for 2006 summer associate positions were up, and the size of summer classes in 2005 was slightly larger than that in 2004. The pace of hiring among employers who recruited third-year students held steady. Among the report’s findings:

OCI Activity

About 28% of law schools reported a change of less than 5% in the number of employers on campus, and 42% of law firms reported visiting the same number of 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, half of law schools reported an increase of 5% or more in the number of employers on campus and 22% reported a decrease of more than 5%. Regional variations are apparent: schools in the West/Rocky Mountain region were most likely to report an increase of 5% or more, with 81% doing so; in the Mid-Atlantic region, just 36% did so. Decreases of 5% or more were most common at schools in the Northeast — 28% — while changes of less than 5% were most common at schools in the Mid-Atlantic region, about 57%.

Job Fairs

Nearly all schools responding participated in one or more job fairs, and 39% 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 69%, respectively, doing so. In contrast, fewer than one-fifth of schools in the West reported that level of participation, and 29% of schools in the Midwest did so. Firms in the Northeast and Midwest 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 a larger percentage (45%) 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 12. Summer programs were the largest in New York City with a median of 14 and average of 25, and in Dallas, with a median of 15.5 and an average of 18. Both the offer and acceptance rates were similar to those for 2004.

Figures for 2005 thus suggest a small increase in class size compared to the prior three years, but one that has not yet matched the average of 14 and median of 8.5 in 2000. The overall offer rate for the past two 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 2005 were typically 10 to 12 weeks long, regardless of firm size, similar to 2004 and 2003. Over 70% of offices reported summer programs of either 10, 11, or 12 weeks, although the lengths reported ranged from 5 to 22 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 in the Southeast (30%); in the Midwest over half of firms reported holding a 12-week program. Areas in the Southeast where 6-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 St. Louis and Minneapolis. Most programs ended in mid-August, as has been the case in recent years for which NALP has compiled this information. The end dates reported ranged from June 17 to as late as September 30.

Employers issued a median of 48 and an average of 86 callback invitations to second-year students. Nationwide, 72% of these callback invitations were accepted. Well over half of callback interviews (60%) resulted in an offer, with a median of 16 offers per employer. Just under one in three of the offers made to Class of 2007 students for 2006 summer programs were accepted, a figure that comports with recent years.

This level of callback activity is somewhat higher than in 2004, when the median and average number of invitations were 42 and 82, respectively. The last five years, nonetheless, are in contrast to an average of 95 and a median of 55 in 2000, suggesting considerable cutbacks in recruiting in fall 2001 that have not yet been fully recouped.

For large firms of 501 or more attorneys, 64% 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, around 50%, compared with about 29% 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 111 offers to second-year students for summer 2006. Acceptance rates were lowest at firms in New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, where between 24% and 27% of offers were accepted. Acceptance rates were highest in Austin, Charlotte, Tampa, Tennessee, and Indianapolis, where between 50% and 60% of offers were accepted.

About 40% of survey respondents, or 211 employers, reported recruiting of third-year students not previously employed by them. This level of activity is similar to that for 2004, and is approaching the level of 2001, when about 43% of respondents reported recruiting third-year students. The median number of callback invitations was 5, and most of these callback invitations (87%) were accepted. About 42% of these interviews resulted in offers, 53% of which were accepted. The level of activity was highest by far in the Northeast, with a median of 14 and an average of 20 callbacks. At the city level, New York City, along with Boston, reported the greatest volume, with medians of 13 and 14.5, respectively. Acceptance rates ranged from about 30% in San Francisco to over 80% in Atlanta and Houston.

Read the full report (free PDF download).

About NALP:

Founded in 1971 as the National Association for Law Placement, Inc.®, NALP — The Association for Legal Career Professionals — is dedicated to facilitating legal career counseling and planning, recruitment and retention, and the professional development of law students and lawyers. NALP maintains an online archive of press releases at www.nalp.org — click on “Research & Directories > Press Releases.”

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