Smaller summer associate classes haven't equaled an increased offer rate this year as firms try to balance a drop in work and attrition rates with the number of incoming associates.
Drinker Biddle & Reath has a higher percentage offer rate this year than many of its local counterparts, but the rate has dropped for the firm compared to 2008, along with its class size.
The firm gave offers to about 68 percent, or 25, of the 37 2L summer associates it had firmwide in 2009. The offer rate was about the same in Philadelphia, where 13 of the 19 2Ls received offers, the firm confirmed.
Drinker Biddle had 20 summer associates in 2009 in Philadelphia compared to 26 last year. There were 19 2Ls who were eligible for offers this year in Philadelphia compared with 24 2Ls in 2008. The firm gave 87.5 percent of its 2008 Philadelphia 2Ls offers.
The are no current plans to defer offers to the 2009 summer associates past the usual start date of the fall of 2010, the firm said.
Drinker Biddle was one of a smaller number of firms that hadn't deferred its 2009 first-year associate class. Instead, the firm is putting those associates into a six-month training program in which they will focus on learning the ropes of being a lawyer rather than billing hours. Their starting salaries will be dropped from $145,000 in Philadelphia to $105,000 for those first six months and then will be raised to the "market rate" after that.
When the training program was first announced in May, Drinker Biddle Chairman Alfred W. Putnam Jr. said that while he didn't know whether it would continue on in the same form, he said he would expect the program to exist in some capacity in future years. At the same time the firm created the training program, it said it would most likely look to bring in smaller numbers of entry-level lawyers in the future.
Pepper Hamilton made that decision for its 2009 summer associate program.
The firm specifically looked to cut its 2009 summer class by more than half compared to last year but was still only able to give offer rates to seven of the 14 summer associates firmwide.
Robert E. Heideck, Pepper Hamilton's executive partner, said last week that all seven were in the firm's Philadelphia office.
Last year, the firm had 38 summer associates across the country and extended offers to 30, or roughly 79 percent, of them.
Heideck said last Wednesday that the firm made the decision last fall to cut this year's summer associate class to less than half of what it was last year "with the hope that we would be able to give a high percentage of offers to those eligible second-year students who met our criteria."
"Unfortunately, the softness created by the economy continues and so we had to make some hard decisions with respect to the eligible 14 associates this year," he had said.
Part of the problem, Heideck said, was that of the 30 second-years who received offers in 2008, 26 plus one 2008 graduate who had a clerkship are slated to start at the firm in January.
Their anticipated workloads coupled with the still-struggling economy hindered the firm from making more offers this year, Heideck said last week.
Morgan Lewis & Bockius had the lowest offer rate of local firms whose numbers have been reported. The firm gave offers to 27.5 percent of its 102 2L summer associates firmwide 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.
Blank Rome gave offers to half of the 14 2Ls it had in its Philadelphia office this summer. That 50 percent offer rate is down from the 83.3 percent offer rate to its 24 Philadelphia summer associates in 2008, according to the Summer Associates 2009 supplement published in The Legal Intelligencer in May. A firm spokesman said the firmwide offer rate for the 2009 class was close to 50 percent as well.
Dechert took a bit of a hybrid approach to making offers this year.
"We are extending offers to begin in fall 2010 to well more than half of our 2009 summer associates," the firm said in a statement. "Hiring decisions on the balance of our 2009 summer associates will be deferred until after the first of the year. At that point or perhaps sooner, we expect to have a better understanding of the fall 2010 demand for entry-level associates. We hope and expect to be able to offer some of the deferred [summer] associates positions that would also start in fall 2010."
Both Morgan Lewis and Blank Rome said that if hiring needs improve, they too would consider for future employment the associates who did not receive offers.