While opportunities to go in-house without a law firm stint first are hard to find, of the total of 36,043 jobs the law school graduates of 2010 reported, 870, or 2.4 percent, were in-house legal jobs, according to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). That number was up from 700 in-house jobs reported by graduates in the two previous years.

NALP has no information about how those grads got their jobs, but general counsel who don’t routinely bring recent grads into their department may hire an exceptional intern or a recent grad who comes in as a contract employee and makes an impression by showing initiative and working hard (see “Path Finders”).

And while HP and Pfizer have the most visible programs to hire attorneys right out of law school, a few other big companies reportedly have had such initiatives. William Chamberlain, assistant dean for career strategy at Northwestern Law School, says Proctor and Gamble (P&G) has a summer internship program from which it hires graduates, and IBM reportedly has been hiring law school graduates for the past three years. (P&G declined a request for an interview, and IBM failed to respond to several interview requests by deadline.)

Citigroup formerly had a law school hiring program, which it operated in partnership with its law firms, but reportedly dropped it in the wake of the financial crisis.