Come May 19, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft will host 58 summer associates, down from 101 in 2007. While the reduction comes at a time when the firm is hurting from the market crunch -- it laid off 35 attorneys in January -- hiring committee Chair Paul Mourning says the decision, made more than a year ago, has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with retention.
"Obviously we linked retention with recruiting," Mourning says. "We made a decision in spring 2007 that we would consciously shrink the summer program so we could improve the experience of summer associates."
The reduction in summer hires "was in response to retention returns," Mourning says, though Cadwalader declines to disclose its associate attrition rates. Among New York firms, Cadwalader ranked near the bottom of The American Lawyer's 2007 associates survey. In New York, it ranked 73 out of the 81 firms participating.
"In shrinking the size, we actually expected that our summers would be busier with the 'real work,' as we call it," Mourning says. "Our experience is that actually makes them happiest." That "real work" includes client service, marketing and pro bono, a spokeswoman says.
Job satisfaction is one thing, job security is another. When Cadwalader announced its layoffs in January, Mourning immediately shot off an e-mail to its newest recruits telling them that they still have jobs.
"We want to assure you that your position is secure," he wrote, according to a leaked e-mail posted online.
Mourning says the firm has no plans to change its summer program because of the recession.