Dip in summer associate hiring at firms is bad omen for larger class of 2024, NALP says
Law students in the class of 2024 may find it more difficult to find a job with a larger law firm after graduation, according to one sign of the hiring market.
Summer associate offers for 2023 programs have decreased by 2%, which typically “would not be overly remarkable,” according to a Feb. 27 press release by the National Association for Law Placement. But the affected second-year law students are in the class of 2024, which had an entering class size almost 12% larger than the class of 2023, the NALP noted in the press release.
Nikia L. Gray, executive director of the NALP, commented on the decline of summer associate offers in an executive summary to the NALP report, Perspectives on 2022 Law Student Recruiting.
“What is clear,” Gray wrote, “is that the entry-level job market in the private sector is currently not growing fast enough to absorb the additional students in the class of 2024.”
Unless there is a strong hiring market for graduates—which appears unlikely at this point—“a greater percentage of these students may need to look at other market segments for employment after graduation,” she wrote.
The median number of offers to 2Ls for summer 2023 programs was nine offers, down from 10 for summer 2022 programs.
The findings are based on information provided by 410 employers, mostly firms. Eighty-six percent of the responses were from firms of more than 250 lawyers.
Gray’s executive summary identifies two factors that may have played a role in the decline in 2023 summer associate hiring.
First, firms may be trimming 2023 summer associate programs because they hired higher-than-usual numbers of entry-level associates for 2023. Nearly 6,200 summer associates received offers to join firms after graduation, which is an all-time high since the Great Recession that began at the end of 2007. Firms may figure that they won’t need so many entry-level associates in fall 2024 as a result.
Second, many firms began to see a decrease in work by the third quarter of 2022.
“This, combined with the salary raises and increased lateral hiring seen in late 2021 and early 2022, resulted in many firms ending Q4 overleveraged,” Gray wrote.
Publications covering the NALP data include Law360, Reuters and Law.com.