Summer Hiring Remains Flat At Most Firms

May 19, 2004
Connecticut Law Tribune, May 17, 2004
Summer associate hiring is fairly flat among Connecticut's largest law firms this year, with Hartford-based Day, Berry & Howard among the few with summer programs even moderately larger than a year ago.
 
The conservative hiring is driven partly by lingering doubts over the economic upsurge and partly by a belief that there will be enough good third-year law students still available in the fall should firms have permanent associate slots left to fill.
 
Day, Berry is bringing on 16 summer associates this year--three more than in 2003--in its Hartford, Stamford and Boston offices. The program's size is still a third smaller than in 2000, when 24 law students interned at DBH.
 
"The firm was having a better year last year than the previous year, and that was a factor in determining if we increase the size of the class," hiring partner Richard P. Colbert acknowledged.
 
Day, Berry, however, doesn't set an exact size for its summer program before it starts the recruiting process. Class size is dictated to no small degree by the quality of the candidates who apply, he said. "We might jump at an opportunity and increase the size if there is an exemplary candidate who really stands out, despite a lack of need at that particular moment."
 
Social Graces On Display
 
Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker's Stamford office is hosting three summer associates this year, of which two are second-year law students who will be offered permanent jobs at the firm if all goes well, said hiring partner John D. Hawkins. The firm had to make six offers to get those three candidates, he said.
 
Last year, Paul, Hastings had only one summer associate in Stamford, due to the fact that its entry-level hiring needs for this coming fall will be largely satisfied by 2002 summer associates whose start dates were delayed so they could complete judicial clerkships, according to Hawkins.
 
The firm's goal, he stated, is to make permanent job offers to all its summer associates--as long as they meet the firm's expectations. Occasionally, things don't work out. "A few years ago, we had one incident where somebody was out of line at a social event," he recalled of one summer intern who didn't make the cut.
 
It wasn't a glaring faux pas, mostly just being overly "loud," Hawkins noted. But it was indicative of a consistent lack of judgment the candidate also displayed in work matters. The lesson, said Hawkins, is that social events for summer associates aren't just for fun. They can confirm patterns of behavior--good and bad--and should be used as an opportunity to demonstrate a level of maturity, he said.
 
At Tyler Cooper & Alcorn, the firm is hiring three summer associates for its Hartford and New Haven offices, one more than last year.
 
One of the three is a first-year law student who will not be offered employment by the firm at the end of the summer, said Patricia E. Reilly, the firm's hiring partner. "We had a lot of deferrals from the year before," she said. "We have a large class coming in the fall" when four entry-level associates are set to begin permanent positions at the firm.
 
Reilly said she couldn't quantify the number of summer associate applications Tyler Cooper received, but sensed it was higher than in past years. "We saw a lot of interest from high quality students at the University of Connecticut School of Law," she noted.
 
The firm, she added, generally targets law students with Connecticut roots because they are more likely to stay in the area after graduation. But "we got applications literally from all over the country," Reilly said.
 
New Haven-based Wiggin & Dana also was inundated with resumes.
 
"This appeared to be a very good year for hiring among the summer classes here in Connecticut," said hiring partner William H. Prout Jr. "I would like to think success breeds success. Strong associates attract strong summer associates."
 
Wiggin will have seven summer associates this year, down from 10 in 2003. Prout said the firm purposely reduced the program's size so it can give more attention to the interns it did bring on. It wasn't a question of economics, he maintained.
 
Write-in applicants with local ties who attend out-of-state law schools sometimes fare better at landing a summer job with Wiggin than in-state students, Prout noted. Wiggin interviews such out-of-state students before the start of the school year. "They have a bit of a leg up," he said. "If they're local kids at far-flung law schools, they're seen early in the season and that gives them an advantage."
 
Less Rejections
 
Summer associate hiring is also down at Bingham McCutchen's Hartford office. Three were selected this year--two less than in each of the past two years. "We generally hire three to five" candidates, said hiring partner Frank A. Appicelli. "We ended up on the lower side this year. It's just kind of the way it fell."
 
This year it took seven offers to hire three people, Appicelli said. Last year, the firm made 10 offers and wound up with five candidates. In 2002, it made 18 offers, only five of which were accepted.
 
Appicelli said better outreach, higher salaries [$2,115 a week] and increased name recognition helped improve the office's acceptance-to-offer rate in recent years. "We're much more attractive to students coming to Hartford than we were three years ago," he conceded.
 
As with other firms, Appicelli said Bingham was conservative in its summer associate hiring because the third-year law student talent pool is especially deep this year since many of them didn't get offers last summer. "There are so many good third-year students out there [that] we could do some hiring in the fall if we needed to," he said.
 
According to the National Association for Law Placement, 87 percent of summer program participants nationwide in 2003 received offers for permanent associate positions, of which 77 percent were accepted. The year before, 81 percent got offers, of which 74 percent were accepted. The overall offer rate had approached the 90 percent mark in the late 1990s and in 2000. ****