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A ‘Small Bounce’ in Job Stats Chronicles a Better Year for Law Students

Posted Mar 14, 2011 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Things are looking up—ever so slightly—for law students looking for law firm jobs.

A new NALP research report (PDF) reveals a “small bounce” in job recruiting numbers in the summer and fall of 2010, at least when compared to the previous year.

The percentage of summer associates offered full-time jobs rebounded to 87.4 percent in 2010 after plunging to 69.3 percent in 2009, according to NALP, formerly the National Association for Law Placement. As a result, law students became a little choosier, and the acceptance rate fell to 82.7 percent from 84.5 percent the year before.

Students also fared better when interviewing for 2011 summer associate jobs, at least compared to the previous year. Last year, 40.6 percent of students got summer associate offers after callback interviews, compared to 36.4 percent in 2009, 46.6 percent in 2008, and around 60 percent the three prior years.

The statistics also suggest the market improved for 3Ls, but only slightly. Fifteen percent of the law firms responding to NALP’s survey reported interviewing third-year students, compared with only 3 percent in 2009. The numbers still fall short of prior years, however. The percentage of firms interviewing 3Ls was 25 percent in 2008, 42 percent in 2007, and 53 percent in 2006.

“While law firms continue to approach all hiring extremely cautiously,” the article says, “these numbers suggest that firms are returning to the entry-level hiring market with more confidence than exhibited in the depths of the recession.”

Other stats:

• About 12 percent of 2010 summer associates who accepted an offer of a permanent job had a deferred start date extending beyond Dec. 1, 2011, compared to 40 percent from the summer 2009 program.

• Summer associate programs were slightly shorter and smaller. The average length in 2010 was 9.4 weeks, compared to 9.7 weeks in 2009 and 10.9 weeks in 2008. The average size was eight summer associates, compared to 12 in 2009 and 13 in 2008 and 2007.

The report is based on information collected from 119 law schools and 260 law firms. About 70 percent of the responding law firms had more than 250 lawyers. Only 242 law firms provided information on summer associate job offers, however.

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