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Forget “The Apprentice.” For law students, being a summer associate is the ultimate job interview. And this year, D.C. firms continue a longstanding tradition of glamorous work and play that might impress even Donald Trump. A sampling of large, midsize, and smaller local law offices shows different strategies when it comes to class sizes this year. Overall, the number of summer associates at the 10 firms surveyed declined 5 percent due primarily to scaled-back classes at Arnold & Porter and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. On the other hand, Hogan & Hartson sharply increased its summer head count, and Covington & Burling saw an uptick, too. To Hildebrandt International consultant Lisa Smith, such variation is not surprising. “It’s going to be an individual decision,” she says. In this economic recovery, “firms are taking a harder look . . . at their overall recruiting program now.” Nationally, a similar trend emerges. According to a survey by Legal Times affiliate the New York Law Journal, 15 of 25 New York firms increased their summer associate classes this year. At six of those firms, the summer class is more than 50 percent larger. In Atlanta, sibling publication The Fulton County Daily Report determined that 10 of 18 local firms hired more summer associates this year, although the total number of summer associates was down 5 percent. In Texas, however, affiliate Texas Lawyer found a 2 percent increase in the local summer associate population. When it comes to compensation, large D.C. firms are generally matching the standard rate in New York: $2,400 a week — the same as last year. D.C. firms also report little change in how they run their programs, which focus on three elements: work assignments, training sessions, and social activities. The work mostly involves research and writing, drafting pleadings, and other projects usually handled by junior associates. Summer associates also attend training sessions, on topics such as deposition-taking and negotiating. And for leisure time, the firms plan concerts, organized city tours, parties at partners’ homes, sailing trips, and the traditional summer pastime: baseball games. When the summer ends, most of the law students can return to school anticipating that an offer for an associate position is forthcoming. All the firms say they are prepared to extend offers to every summer associate — provided, of course, their performance is acceptable. BREATH OF FRESH AIR For law students, the summer associate program is a look ahead at life after graduation. But for firms, the temporary additions each summer seem to rejuvenate law offices everywhere. “It’s kind of an exciting time because we have a lot of energetic folk who are here,” says Hogan & Hartson partner Agnes Dover, a co-chair of the summer associate program. Hogan & Hartson is hosting 65 summer associates this year, with 39 in its D.C. office. Locally, that’s a hefty 56 percent increase over last year, when the D.C. office had 25 associates. But the firm is still not at the level it was in 2001 with 68 students. Students can pick and choose from assignments that could include working on contracting and insurance issues for doing business in Iraq, drafting pleadings, and working on pro bono matters. “We want them to to have a good overview of what the practice of law is like, particularly what the practice is like here at Hogan,” Dover says. At Covington & Burling, 65 summer associates will get hands-on experience in the practice of law. The firm’s D.C. office will have 56 interns, seven more than last year when it hosted 49 students, a 14 percent increase. At Covington, summer associates may work on white collar investigations, preparing tax documents for nonprofit organizations, and other research and writing projects, says partner Catherine Dargan, a co-chair of the summer associate program. The firm asked the students to indicate beforehand which practice areas they would like to work in, and the answers were surprisingly specific, Dargan says. For example, one summer associate’s stated preference was e-commerce data protection. When they are not working, Covington’s summer associates will attend training sessions and presentations, including a newly added negotiation skills workshop. For leisure time, Covington’s summer associates will go rock climbing, take cooking classes, and visit the U.S. Supreme Court. Arnold & Porter, on the other hand, continued to scale back its summer associate program. The firm, which had the town abuzz in 2001 when it hosted 80 summer associates in the District alone, has 42 summer associates firmwide and 26 in the District this year. It’s a 43 percent decline compared with 2003, when the Washington office had 46 summer associates. “We deliberately set out to have a smaller program this year,” says managing partner James Sandman, explaining that the office is well-staffed for its current work needs. Last fall, 59 new associates started working at the firm. Although the sizes of the summer classes are rapidly decreasing, Sandman says the summer program continues to be “the most significant source of our associate hires.” Besides the work, the firm has planned a host of training sessions for its summer associates, including programs on ethics, taking depositions, and drafting transactional documents, Sandman says. This year, the firm added brief writing to the curriculum. At Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the firm is hosting 96 summer associates, 21 of them in the District — the same number as last year. The D.C. office peaked in 1999, when it brought on 46 law students for the summer. D.C. hiring partner Dennis Race says summer associates will get a mix of assignments. One summer associate, for example, is working on an antitrust compliance presentation for a client. “Some of it is cutting edge and some of it is not the most exciting in the world,” Race admits. Jessica Parniccia, who is graduating next year from University of Virginia School of Law, says Akin Gump has been keeping her very busy with work and social functions. Parniccia says this summer she wants “to try on the various substantive areas of law.” So far, she has completed assignments ranging from a tax project to a land use/environmental matter. Summer associate Meredith Bentley, a law student at the University of California at Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, says she chose Akin Gump to get good training and to get a feel for big firm work. “Law school is great,” she says, “but I don’t know how much they prepare you for actual legal practice.” Arent Fox also has the same number of summer associates it had last year — 16. The firm has averaged around 17 for the past five years, says Quana Jew, partner and chair of the employment committee. Jew, who started as a summer associate at the firm, says that “there is far more training going on” nowadays than when she was a law student. In addition, in an economy where jobs remain tight, students are taking their employment searches seriously, Jew says. In previous years, law students would split their summers between two or more firms in different cities, and generally let firms “wine and dine” them. For the most part, summer associates at Arent Fox are encouraged to try work in different practice areas. This year, two of the summer associates are dedicated specifically to patent work, Jew says. Atlanta’s Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy has one more summer associate in its D.C. office than last year — an increase from five to six. There are 27 summer associates firmwide, including 21 in Atlanta. Two years ago, the firm streamlined the summer associate class after the international trade practice group, which was concentrated in the D.C. office, left the firm for Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, says Lynn Ann Herron, the recruiting manager in Powell Goldstein’s D.C. office. The firm hosted 11 summer associates in 2000, its largest class since 1991. Powell, Goldstein’s D.C. summer associates will earn $2,250 weekly. The firm plans such treats as a trip to Fripp Island, S.C., a boat trip from Annapolis, Md., and an office retreat where the summer associates will meet up with their counterparts in Atlanta. The summer associates have plenty of flexibility in choosing their assignments. “They make their own decision as to what assignment to take,” Herron says. All they have to do is pick their assignments from the “assignment book,” where they can work on anything from research and writing to drafting pleadings. Patton Boggs’ D.C. office is hosting nine summer associates this time around, two less than last year. In the last five years, the number of interns has ranged from nine to 12, says Darryl Nirenberg, the firm’s hiring partner. “We traditionally have small classes for a firm our size,” Nirenberg says. “We find summer associates like it because they get more personal attention and they’re not treated as a number.” At Patton Boggs, summer associates can expect to work on topics ranging from legislative history research to Internet commerce to antitrust compliance. A particular treat for the summer associates is a session with name partner Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. to talk about the “principles of lobbying,” Nirenberg says. COME TOGETHER Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, which was formed after the June 1 merger between Wilmer Cutler Pickering and Boston’s Hale and Dorr, will have 87 summer associates firmwide, 49 of them in the District. The local number includes 42 associates who received offers from Wilmer and seven from Hale and Dorr. Despite the merger, this year’s D.C. class size represents a decline from last year, when Wilmer alone had 61 summer associates in Washington. David Donovan, Wilmer Cutler Pickering’s hiring partner, says the firm extended fewer offers for summer associate positions because, in previous years, more law students accepted offers to intern at the firm. This year, the acceptance rate was a little lower, he says. Donovan says the merger has caused a few logistical issues, but has opened up other opportunities as well. Hale and Dorr D.C. summer associates, who expected to work in a small office of a large firm, had many questions about their integration into a large D.C. firm, Donovan says. On the other hand, Wilmer summer associates “will be able to work with Hale and Dorr lawyers on intellectual property matters,” Donovan says. Donovan expects that the firm’s appellate practice will distribute numerous assignments like it has in the past. In previous summers, students worked on cases concerning affirmative action in Michigan and campaign finance reform. Both matters were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Howrey Simon Arnold & White begins its fourth year of Howrey Boot Camp, where students participate in a faux trial process from complaint to trial. This year, 40 summer associates, 21 in the District, will participate in the five-week program. Last year, Howrey had 22 associates in the District. For the first three weeks, the summer associates will receive typical assignments, says partner Richard Ripley. Then all summer associates will travel to a conference center in Leesburg, Va., for the boot camp. The smallest program surveyed is in the D.C. office of Chicago’s Katten Muchin Zavis Rosenman. The 65-lawyer outpost grew by more than 37 percent in head count in 2003. This year, the firm has four summer associates in the District, one more than last year, says partner Jennifer Beer, who adds that the office has relied primarily on lateral hiring for growth. In the past, the office’s real estate group has hired the most summer associates, Beer says. There is one advantage for summer associates working in her small office, Beer says: “You work in a big firm, but you don’t have the politics of a big firm.”

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