For the past few years, law student recruitment for summer associate programs has been incredibly successful, harkening back to the pre-recession era. The 2019 cycle was only different than usual in that its outcomes were even better than last year’s historic trends.
According to the latest law student recruiting figures from the National Association of Law Placement (NALP), offer rates from Biglaw summer programs have reached brand new historic highs. Not only did the aggregate offer rate jump to almost 98 percent (slightly better than last year’s historic high of nearly 97 percent), but the acceptance rate for those offers was 88 percent, the same as last year’s historic high. What’s even more exciting is that this historic acceptance rate is significantly higher than acceptance rates measured before the recession, which tended to hover between about 73 to 77 percent. On the other hand, the average size of summer associate classes at the largest of law firms fell slightly from 14 to 13. Here’s what James Leipold, NALP’s executive director, had to say about the latest figures:
What these data suggest is that in the more than 10 years following the Great Recession, law firms steadily rebuilt their summer programs and entry-level recruiting pipeline, but that regrowth has now definitively been capped, and in some cases firms have begun to implement a gentle taper, perhaps in anticipation of some economic uncertainty ahead.
Speaking of economic uncertainty…
Last week we wondered if the coronavirus would lead to a situation where upcoming summer programs would possibly be postponed or even canceled outright. Leipold says that hasn’t happened yet, in terms of rescinding offers or anything of that nature, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anxiety in the air. From Law.com:
“I don’t think canceling summer programs is what’s going to happen,” he said. “But I think if firms are still stuck in remote work, they’ll be thinking, ‘OK, what does that look like for a summer associate who has never worked here? How do we train them? How do we give them virtual assignments? How do we have social bonding when we can’t come into work?’ I think those are the questions being asked right now for the incoming summer class.” …
“Nobody has really made a decision,” Leipold said of how firms will handle the incoming summer associate class and upcoming recruiting season. “Firms are grappling with that right now. I think firms will make good faith efforts to honor their commitments under the present circumstances. There’s not enough information in the marketplace yet to know how all of this will play out. But it will certainly have an impact on everything.”
Either way, congratulations to all law students who went through the recruitment cycle in 2019, as things seem to have worked out great for them. Cross your fingers that they actually get the summer associate experience that they expected to receive.
Summer Associate Hiring Was Strong, but COVID-19 Prompts Uncertainty Ahead [Law.com]
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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