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With only weeks left before graduation, Adam Wilczewski is hustling. The American University third-year law student and aspiring politician worked for the presidential campaign of Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., during his second year of school and throughout last summer. “I [hoped] Lieberman was going to be president, and I could work in the White House,” he said. That isn’t going to happen, and now Wilczewski is looking for a job post-graduation. He is volunteering with the Democratic National Committee and the Public International Law and Policy Group, a nonprofit organization, hoping that his work at both places and other personal contacts will land him a job. “I feel good. I feel positive,” he said. “The question is: What’s the next step?” Because of the dot-com crash and the further erosion of the economy caused by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, landing a job for graduates such as Wilczewski has not been the sure thing it seemed when they first entered school in 2001, when firms were hiring record numbers of new associates at astronomical salaries. Last year, students seemed to say, “‘Woe is me-the economy. I can’t find anything,’” said Traci Mundy Jenkins, director of American University’s career services office. In the last few years, the number of offers for associate positions dropped nationwide, while acceptance rates increased. Permanent offers for the 4,233 students participating in summer associate programs in 2002 was about 81%, a decline from 84% in 2001. In comparison, the associate offer rate was about 90% in 2000 and the late 1990s, according to a National Association for Law Placement survey. The survey found that the acceptance rates for those positions increased from about 66% in 2000 to 78% in 2002, the most recent year for which the group has statistics for associate offers. Increasingly, 2004 grads have been forced to consider posts that for many would not have been on the radar screen in the past: judicial clerkships, jobs in government, nonprofits and small firms. Indeed, Jenkins said she is telling students to be even more flexible. She counsels them to “think of a federal clerkship in Minnesota as opposed to D.C.,” where the competition is more intense. For students entering law school this fall or for those with one or two years left before graduation, the outlook is better. Many law students get their jobs through their schools’ on-campus recruiting process, which occurs in the fall. Students interview at the beginning of their second year for a summer position when the school year ends. Ideally, they are offered permanent jobs at the end of summer, so their last year of school begins with the knowledge of where they will be after graduation. More firms came on-campus to recruit this past fall, although they are hiring fewer people, said Gihan Fernando, assistant dean for career services at Georgetown University Law Center. LuEllen Conti, the career services director at Howard University School of Law, said there was an uptick in on-campus interviewing last fall. And she sees an increase in hiring activity so far this year. “We see light at the end of the tunnel,” Conti said. Private sector view Mark Plotkin, hiring partner at Washington’s Covington & Burling, noticed a pickup in the market for students based on growing recruiting competition from other firms. In the last few years, “we were able to waltz into law schools and hire whomever we wanted to,” Plotkin said. Covington has hired the same number of summer associates�50 to 55 in D.C.�and new associates�40 to 50�during the thriving 1990s and through the market decline, Plotkin said. The firm, unlike many others, did not increase hiring during the good times, he explained. On the other hand, increased hiring at Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis has corresponded with increased business. Kirkland is anticipating a need for more associates over the next two to three years, said Eugene Assaf, hiring partner and chairman of the recruiting committee in Washington. Litigation right now is very busy, he said.

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