When the U.S. stock market went into a tailspin in the fall of 2008, the response among law firms was swift and nearly uniform.

Hiring ground to a halt almost immediately after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy prompted a 4.5% one-day drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Sept. 15. Law students who were lucky enough to have interviews that August received offers, but after the crash, even those from top schools with the shiniest of resumes got nothing.

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