Thursday, March 8, 2012

Summer associate hiring is flat; could foreshadow weak market in 2013 and beyond

From the National Law Journal:

On-campus recruiting picked up slightly at law schools last fall, but that didn't translate into major summer clerk hiring gains, according to data released on March 7 by the National Association for Law Placement. 

The average summer associate class size remained at eight — matching the previous year's historic low. The median class size increased by just one summer clerk — from four in 2011 to five in 2012.

Summer associate offer rates ticked up modestly, from 40.6 percent in fall 2010 to 46.4 percent in 2011 for students interviewed by firms. But that figure was dwarfed by the 60 percent offer rate in 2007. 

Relatively small summer associate classes indicate that firms don't plan to boost new associate hiring through at least 2013, since firms attempt to project their hiring needs nearly two years in advance. 

This year's recruiting landscape may well represent a new norm, said NALP Executive Director Jim Leipold. 

"This is not a hot recruiting market, but this sort of modest growth may well represent the best we can hope for with year-on-year comparisons going forward," he said. "I would anticipate volatility in the recruiting market for some time. For instance, 2012 is off to a slow start economically for law firms, and we may see that reflected in the recruiting numbers this August."

On a brighter note, law firms spent more time on-campus looking for summer hires, according to NALP's figures. They still didn't recruit as much as they did before the 2008 recession, however. 

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