wooden block tower (Photo: 88studio/Shutterstock.com)

As firms continue to adjust their summer associate programs to the realities of a pandemic-induced shutdown and demand slowdown, they are now increasingly eyeing their first-year associate programs as well.

Reed Smith and Greenberg Traurig announced Wednesday changes to their summer and first-year programs, demonstrating the different approaches firms can take in reaction to these new market realities.

Citing expected further effects from COVID-19, Reed Smith global head of legal personnel Casey Ryan said in a statement that the firm would delay its first-year start date to January 2021 and will shorten its summer associates program to five weeks.

The first-years will receive a stipend for the fall of 2020, paid bar exam and study costs as planned, and will receive health insurance beginning in September 2020. Summer associates, who will work remotely if necessary, will participate in an “intensive Reed Smith University training program” to prepare for work assignments and interactions in the legal profession, Reed Smith said in the statement. They will also have opportunities to partner and work with lawyers and staff.

“We are eager to welcome our talented class of summer associates and provide them with a meaningful opportunity to gain legal skills and insight into our firm. We also look forward to welcoming our new associates back to the firm,” Ryan said in the statement. “While we have had to adjust to new ways of doing business because of [the] coronavirus pandemic, it will not stop us from pushing ahead on important talent initiatives at the firm.”

Greenberg Traurig, which made a point to note in its statement that it acts independently and does not worry about “following the herd,” said it will not hold a traditional summer associate program. It also announced that, due to health concerns and bar exam dates, its first-year associate class “may have their start dates delayed until January 2021. This will be determined on an office-by office basis after careful consideration.”

Instead of its normal summer program, the firm will offer 2Ls a full-time offer as a first-year to start in either the fall of 2021 or January 2022. In July 2020, they will receive a $10,000 advance against their first-year associate salary.

For 1Ls with a summer associate offer, they will receive a $5,000 advance on their salary for their participation in a summer 2021 program, the firm said in a statement.

As Greenberg Traurig’s offices reopen, office leaders can decide to hire one or more of the summer associates as hourly interns over the course of the year. The firm said this would provide some of the missed “real world” experience and financial benefits to those summers. Greenberg Traurig called this plan “more realistic and respectful” and one that makes ”more business sense” for the firms clients and current lawyers.

“As is now clear, the coronavirus pandemic has made a dramatic impact on many of our clients, their businesses, world markets, societies and our own people and their families,” executive chairman Richard Rosenbaum said in a statement. “Greenberg Traurig has always been an independent thinker, putting its clients and its people first, while also being financially disciplined, realistic and always looking ahead to prepare for both challenges and opportunities in change. We look to these considerations and our own value system to make strategic and other decisions, and sometimes doing what makes business sense and what is ‘right’ is not necessarily the same as doing what is ‘popular.’”