Entry-level firm recruiting activity remains strong

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) recently released its annual Perspectives on 2018 Law Student Recruiting report, showing that law firm recruiting activity last year was brisk with offer rates coming out of summer programs reaching an historic high.

“After a period of great volatility following the recession marked first by a prolonged slowdown in law student recruiting and then a period of rapid escalation in recruiting, we have seen the recruiting market stabilize over the last four or five years,” said NALP Executive Director James Leipold.

The recruiting climate, he said, “is most accurately described as steady in 2018, though as with law firm profitability, there remain large differences between individual firms in terms of the number of offers being extended for summer programs and the size of the summer programs themselves.”

Meanwhile, he said, offer rates coming out of summer programs “are at historic highs, as are yield rates on those offers, and the 3L recruiting market remains quite anemic, findings that are closely linked.”

In addition to surveying various law schools and law firms about recruiting activities, the association surveyed 2L law students who met with law firm representatives to discuss a 2019 summer position about their OCI (On Campus Interiewing) experiences.

Among the findings from the student survey are that office location is a major factor when students are deciding which firms to apply to summer positions.

When making a final choice between offers, or even which callback invitations to accept, the people met during an interview are the primary factor in that decision-making.

Other findings in the report include:

• While there are still some large summer programs, most notably in offices in New York, there are an increasing number of small programs, and the single most common summer program class size for a law office was a class of just one person in 2018.

Fully one-quarter of summer programs reported for summer 2018 consisted of one or two summer associates.

As a point of comparison, in 2008 only 16 percent of summer programs consisted of one or two associates.

• The aggregate offer rate coming out of summer programs had been flat for three years at just about 95 percent, but in 2018 jumped to nearly 97 percent, an historic high.

• The acceptance rate on these offers had hovered between 84 percent and 86 percent for seven years in a row, but in 2018 was measured at 88 percent, also an historic high, and significantly higher than the pre-recession norm of overall acceptance rates of about 73 to 77 percent.

• Members of the Class of 2020 (who went through the OCI process in the summer and fall of 2018) experienced a robust market quite similar to that experienced by the previous three classes, and with significant competition for top talent.

Across employers of all sizes, the median number of offers extended for summer associate positions has been 11 or 12 for the last four years.

“If there is a takeaway from the student surveys that were completed,” Leipold said, “it is that who you send to campus really matters.

“At the end of the day, students report that the lawyers they met were extremely influential in students’ assessments of where to accept or reject offers of summer employment.”

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