Texas’ largest firms are bringing in about the same number of summer associates as they did last year, but a larger proportion of those summer associates are 1Ls.

Baker Botts, Locke Lord, and Vinson & Elkins are three large firms that each hired 19 or more first-year summer associates for their Texas offices in 2013.

Partners involved in recruiting at the three firms say the reasons for the larger group of 1L students, respectively, are increasing success of hiring top students for full-time jobs if they spend their 1L summers working at the firm, more interest by first-year students at out-of-state schools in working in Texas, and higher full-time job acceptance rates by 2LS in recent summer associate classes.

Van Beckwith, the partner in charge of recruiting for Houston-based Baker Botts, says 90 to 95 percent of law school graduates who begin their full-time careers at the firm were students in the firm’s summer associate programs.

“Adding 1Ls is a great way of pipelining that talent,” Beckwith says. “Almost 100 percent come back and spend the second summer with us.”

Hiring 1Ls means the students can come back the summer after their second year of law school and work in a different practice area or office, he says.

“It’s an opportunity for us to showcase the strength of our platform, offices and client relationships and also to make sure they are a great fit for us.”

Janis Loegering, firm hiring partner for Dallas-based Locke Lord, says that the strength of the energy boom and economy in Texas means more law students and graduates want to work in Texas.

“We want to take advantage of that interest, and we’ve had a lot of interest from 1Ls,” she says.

Loegering says there seem to be more students at top out-of-state schools with Texas ties.

“We’ve not often gone to Berkeley or Stanford or Harvard and had as many students that grew up in Texas, went to Texas [undergraduate] schools, and want to come back to Texas,” she says. “So, I think there’s most interest in coming back to Texas than perhaps there was 10 years ago.”

2Ls

With a high percentage of 2011 and 2012 second-year summer associates accepting offers for full-time jobs, Vinson & Elkins decided to hire a smaller 2013 summer associate class than it hired in 2012, says Tom Leatherbury, Dallas partner and chairman of the firm’s talent management committee.

While the firm’s offer rate to 2011 and 2012 summer associates for full-time jobs was about the same — 90 percent — the percentage of students accepting the offers was higher than normal, he says.

“An 83 percent acceptance rate is really outstanding, and we’re thrilled about it,” Leatherbury says. “We decided, because of the trend upward in the acceptance rate, we could hire a smaller number of 2Ls and still hit about the same number of associates out of that group,” Leatherbury says.

So, the firm hired fewer 2L summer associates for 2013 and increased the number of 1L summer associates.

“I think, first of all, we saw an incredible number of really great 1L résumés,” he says. “It’s along the lines of thinking, ‘Let’s get our foot in the door early with this young woman or young man,’ and we extended more [1L] offers.”