When offer rates for summer associates were the talk of the industry last week, Morgan Lewis & Bockius stayed relatively quiet, issuing a statement only to dispel reports that it was not giving offers in at least one major office.
In that statement, the firm did show that it was following a number of its large-firm brethren by giving only a "limited number" of offers to its summer class firmwide.
Now that the firm has finished informing summer associates of their status and has made a firmwide announcement Tuesday morning regarding the decisions, Morgan Lewis has provided more concrete numbers when it comes to offer rates.
Firmwide hiring partner Eric Kraeutler said there were 102 eligible 2Ls across the country in this year's summer program. Of that group, 28, or 27.5 percent, were given offers to start as first-year associates in the fall of 2011 -- a year later than would normally be the case given the deferrals of the 2009 first-year class until the fall of 2010.
In Philadelphia, the offer rate was slightly higher with seven of the 23 2Ls, or 30.4 percent, receiving offers. Morgan Lewis' offer rates are lower than some of the other local firms who have given offers. Blank Rome gave offers to about 50 percent of its class. Dechert said it gave offers to more than half of its firmwide class and is holding out on deciding whether to give offers to the rest of the class until after the new year.
Last week Morgan Lewis issued a statement saying it would provide a letter to prospective employers for students who didn't get an offer in order to explain the firm's hiring decisions and that a "no offer" was not necessarily a reflection on the student.
Kraeutler said Tuesday that, for the students who didn't receive offers, the firm would consider them for employment in the fall of 2011 if hiring needs improve.
There were a number of factors that went into Morgan Lewis' decision to extend fewer offers this year, he said. The firm consulted with its practice group leaders to gauge anticipated hiring needs in two years and looked at its attrition rate, which Kraeutler said was virtually zero since the beginning of 2009.
While some firms give an offer of general admission, Morgan Lewis gives its summer associates offers for specific practice areas. Kraeutler said this year's offers were for a broad range of practices, but the bulk were given in the areas of litigation, labor and employment and business and finance.
Morgan Lewis has made a number of moves this year to manage its hiring, including delaying 2009 first-year associates by one year, forgoing on-campus recruiting in 2009, eliminating a 2010 summer associate program and changing associate compensation models.
Kraeutler said many of the changes to entry-level hiring at large law firms could be long lasting.
"I think that there are going to be some adjustments that are going to be long-term and one of the things that we're looking hard at is the fact that the traditional recruiting process occurs so far in advance of the hiring date," he said. "The candidates we're interviewing are for positions two years out. That's a longtime for us. I think we're going to take a hard look at that."
Kraeutler said Morgan Lewis has been working since January to align its talent with client needs. While other firms are still moving ahead with on-campus recruiting this summer for 2010 even though they held off on making offers to all of this year's summer class, continuing to recruit for 2010 or 2011 didn't make the most sense for Morgan Lewis, Kraeutler said.
"Forgoing a year of hiring was the best way to create that alignment," he said.
The firm has also been open about its hiring decisions, sending letters to law school leaders and students about its intentions, he said.
"I think everyone appreciates openness and candor, which sometimes are in short supply in an economy like this," Kraeutler said.
Law school counselors said they anticipate offers to come out later this year as firms try to predict their hiring needs in the next two years. Dechert was the first firm to put an official delay on the offers, pushing some of the decisions off until January.
Large law firms typically want to give offers to summer associates as quickly as they can once completing evaluations and assessing practice area needs because they then have to begin recruiting on campus for next summer's class, Melissa Lennon, Temple University Beasley School of Law assistant dean for career planning, said last week.
"Now, here in the real world in 2009, I think firms generally are going to wait as long as they can to make these decisions," she had said. Elaine Petrossian, Villanova School of Law's assistant dean for career strategy and advancement, said last week that she would rather see more stable decisions occur later rather than firms make premature hiring decisions simply because that's the way they had always done things.