Cravath, Swaine & Moore has informed law students who summered at the firm last year that some of them can start this fall, one year earlier than planned under a previously announced program. Rowan Wilson, a hiring partner at Cravath, said via e-mail that “those who have not yet committed to something else for 2010-11, if they are interested in starting at Cravath in 2010, we will be able to take some of them.”

The move is a step back from a plan announced in June to delay start dates for the 120 students until 2011 in exchange for $65,000 each. Exactly how many associates the firm would hire has yet to be determined. Wilson said if too many students sign up to start this fall, a lottery will be held “to make sure none of them reads anything into whether they were selected because they’re perceived to be better.” The move comes at a time when the legal sector has seen signs of economic improvement. Evan Chesler, presiding partner at Cravath, said in an interview before news of the decision on deferrals broke that in his view “things look better than they did a year ago.”