» INTERACTIVE CHART: 2014 Atlanta Summer Class

King & Spalding has come up with a unique twist on dinner at a partner’s house for its summer associates: a progressive dinner party on Lake Lanier.

Three of the firm’s lawyers have volunteered their lake houses and docks for the evening. The 10 summers will have cocktails and appetizers with lawyers at one house and then be ferried by boat to the next house for dinner and to a third for dessert.

“We are very excited about this event. … We hope to call it the First Annual,” said Amy Marsh, the firm’s recruiting manager, in an email.

On the social side, most firms have scheduled some type of team-building activity in addition to Braves games, Chastain concerts and dinners with partners.

The boat ride for King & Spalding’s progressive lake house dinner adds a teambuilding element to the partner dinner.

Kilpatrick stages The Game, a scavenger hunt around Atlanta that is designed by Out of Hand Theater to acquaint the summers with the city as well as with each other.

Cooking classes have become increasingly popular because they facilitate group interaction in an informal setting—with something tasty to enjoy at the end. King & Spalding, Paul Hastings and Bryan Cave’s summers will all have a chance to cook together.

Wine tastings are another popular activity, loosely classed under team-building, and Bryan Cave’s summers will take an art class together.

Since the recession, firms continue to place more emphasis on professional development activities.

Arnall Golden Gregory has planned a bike tour, a Braves game, IMAX show and game night, plus plenty of lunches and dinners. The summers will also visit clients’ offices, be introduced to the various practice groups and attend a lunch-and-learn on law firm economics.

“We want to showcase what’s best about the firm, what’s best about Atlanta and what’s best about our clients,” said Althea Broughton, the hiring partner at AGG.

AGG is hosting six summer associates this year, a large class relative to the 150-lawyer firm’s size. Broughton said AGG makes sure it has permanent spots for all the candidates before offering them summer positions. “I really do not see the summer program as an opportunity to winnow people out. We take on everybody fully intending for them to be successful and come back to the firm,” she said.

Troutman Sanders is taking its 13 local summer associates on several client tours. Last week they went to Georgia Power’s Plant Wansley, southwest of Atlanta, where they got to see how a coal-fired power plant works and find out what Troutman does for the power utility.

An in-house lawyer “speaks to them about their interactions with us, other outside counsel and how their business works,” said Steven Hewitson, chairman of Troutman’s local associate recruiting committee.

“It gives them insight into what in-house counsel deal with so they will understand the pressures on them,” he said.

The summers also have taken a behind-the-courtroom tour of judges’ chambers at Fulton County State Court and talked to a couple of judges about their work. A trip to Chick-fil-A headquarters is in the offing.

While Troutman has done the client tours since Hewitson was a summer associate in 1996, he said, the firm in recent years has placed more emphasis on training and development than it did a decade ago. It is hoping to host some clients for a round­table discussion with the summer associates about client expectations on outside counsel later in the summer, he added.

Troutman also has a happy hour for summers with the firm’s chairman, Bob Webb, and managing partner, Stephen Lewis, plus all the section heads. “It’s really nice because it’s more of an intimate setting,” Hewitson said. “They get to have some good social conversation with the chairman and managing partner without feeling they have to be fully engaged in all things firm.”

Kilpatrick is planning an “extensive workshop on enhancing [summer associates'] writing, research, presentation, networking and business etiquette skills,” said Kaitlin Chritton, the firm’s recruiting coordinator.

Firms still are treating their summers to a weekend retreat, but boozy beach weekends are a thing of the past.

Troutman’s summer clerks will visit a Lake Oconee resort, Cuscowilla. “It’s the new beach weekend—one night at the lake,” said Hewitson.

After a day of golf, water-skiing and pontoon boating, they will “have a nice dinner, hang out in a hospitality suite and go to bed, then get up and go home,” he said.

Few changes from 2013

While firms have come up with some creative and engaging activities for their summer associates outside the office, the dozen firms responding to our annual local survey of summer associate programs reported almost exactly the same class sizes, weekly pay and program length as they had last year.

The six largest Atlanta firms have class sizes of roughly 10 summers. That includes 1Ls and 3Ls, even though the vast majority are 2Ls. Class sizes at the large firms range from eight at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton to 20 at Alston & Bird.

Class sizes for the 12 firms responding to our survey are just about the same as in 2013, except for King & Spalding. It reduced its local class size from 17 to 10 this year, but last year’s class was larger than usual.

Smith, Gambrell & Russell has increased its class size from three law students last year to five. “We are hosting more summers than recently, though we are not yet back to pre-crash levels,” said the firm’s recruiting director, Sherri Knight, in the survey.

In an acknowledgement that becoming a successful lawyer is about more than grades and LSAT scores, “interview results matter far more than paper credentials,” when deciding who to hire for the summer, Knight commented. “We are now especially focused on legal writing ability and overall smarts balanced by good life experiences.”

Median pay is $2,600 per week. Two-thirds of the firms are paying between $2,500 and $2,600 per week. National firms Jones Day and Paul Hastings, which both have large Atlanta offices, continue to pay the highest: $3,125 per week at Jones Day and $2,900 at Paul Hastings.

Local litigation boutique Bondurant Mixson & Elmore also is paying more than the median: $2,788 per week to its two summers.

Troutman bumped up its pay by $100 a week to $2,600, which Hewitson said was a “slight market adjustment” to match what peer firms were paying. “We don’t want someone making a decision over a hundred bucks so we took that issue off the table,” he said.

The programs are for between seven and 10 weeks, with half the firms reporting nine weeks. Ten of the 12 firms said some of their summer associates would split their summer with another firm.