For Nick Gravante and Natasha Harrison, managing partners at Boies Schiller Flexner, the decision to keep the firm’s summer associate program was a quick one. They said Wednesday that after the issue was raised internally, the firm’s leaders mailed its roughly 28 summer associates a letter assuring them that the program would go on.

Natasha Harrison of Boies Schiller Flexner

A goal of the summer program is to give rising lawyers “a real dose of reality,” Gravante said, and for now that includes dealing with a pandemic. “If we have to work at home because that’s where lawyers are working when summer associates start arriving in mid-May, then we will incorporate the summers into our work-from-home routine.”

But many other law firms still seem to be trying to work out the kinks. While lateral hiring has continued at many firms, summer associate programs are traditionally centered around face-to-face interaction and forging links with future colleagues. It will doubtlessly be more challenging to do that over video chats and emails.

At Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, chairman Brad Karp said Thursday that the firm still hadn’t decided whether to change its summer associate program. But he noted that delaying summer associate programs beyond their usual mid-May starting point could dovetail with the decision by most law schools to delay their on-campus interviews from about August 2020 until early 2021, freeing up students later in the summer.

Nathan Peart, a managing director at recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa’s associate practice group, said decisions about changes to the summer associate program were still up in the air at many firms, but they generally view it as a key part of their talent pipeline. He said in a Thursday interview that he hadn’t yet heard of any firms that planned to cancel or shorten their summer programs.

“In the next two weeks, I think that’s when we’ll get more clarity on these things,” he said.

Other firms that have said in recent weeks they plan to go ahead with their summer programs include Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson and Caplin & Drysdale.

A spokesman for Covington & Burling also said in an email Thursday that the firm plans to move forward with its summer program as planned, even if participants need to start remotely.

Joel Carpenter, the Boston-based managing partner of Sullivan & Worcester, said Wednesday that switching to remote work has gone well. But with the economy entering a sharp downturn, he said, his firm has made some cuts—cancelling a partner retreat later this year—and is figuring out what to do in other areas. He said the firm hasn’t decided whether it will make any changes to its four-person summer associate program.

“You see [the economic forecasts], and you say, ‘how can that not affect me?’” he said.

At Boies Schiller, Harrison said, while not everyone could work at 100% productivity under the current conditions, they are still chugging along. Harrison, who started the firm’s London office, said English courts have been highly adept at moving arguments to the videoconferencing product Zoom, and even happy hours have gone digital.

“We had our first drinks-from-home on Friday, where everyone dials in on Zoom,” she said.


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