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A general economic recovery and increased legal business have meant more summer associates and higher salaries at law firms nationwide this summer. According to ALM’s 2005 National Summer Associate Hiring Survey, the average number of summer associates hired by law firms nationwide is up from 2004. In addition, summer associates’ average weekly salaries have risen slightly. (ALM, formerly known as American Lawyer Media, is the parent company of Legal Times.) The ALM survey found that the average number of summer associates per firm jumped from roughly 40 in 2004 to about 47 this year. ALM surveyed 151 firms nationwide this spring; 71 firms responded. Consultants and recruiters say that this year’s larger class is due to the country’s economic recovery and many firms’ increased business, creating a need for more attorneys to handle the larger workload. Indeed, many recruiters suggested that this year’s class is still smaller than classes from the late ’90s. “When firms were hiring for summer ’04 in the fall of ’03, the market was just beginning to pick up, and there wasn’t that clear level of comfort that the market would pick up in the future,” says Daniel Binstock, managing director of the D.C. office of BCG Attorney Search. Not only has the market improved, he says, but firms are comfortable that the market is going to be stronger for some time. Steve Nelson, an Arlington, Va.-based consultant with the legal recruiting firm McCormick Group, agrees. The 2005 numbers show that “firms are confident about the amount of work coming in,” he says. The recruiters say that increased business is leading the firms to hire more summer associates with an eye on the future workload. In fact, Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the D.C. office of Mestel & Co., says the additional work has influenced hiring of both summer associates and new associates in the fall. Business considerations seemed to drive this year’s numbers more than aggressive recruiting strategies, consultants say. Jay Jaffe, president and CEO of Jaffe Associates, says firms are “looking at having good, sound economic reasons for hiring, instead of trying to run their numbers up.” Since 2001′s economic downturn, firms have been more cautious in the number of summer associates they hire, Jaffe adds. Six of the eight D.C. firms responding to the survey hired more summer associates this year, even those not growing as a result of a merger. Latham & Watkins, for instance, increased its firmwide summer associate class by 54, from 164 in 2004 to 218 this year. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr also saw a huge jump firmwide, from 87 in 2004 to 129 this year. Raymond Grochowski, local chairman of the recruiting committee at Latham & Watkins, says the firm deliberately hired more summer associates this year. “It was a decision we made in response to requirements for additional attorneys because the work has been busy,” he says. Wilmer’s increase, however, had a number of causes, including the need for more attorneys to handle the larger practice created by 2004′s merger between Wilmer Cutler & Pickering and Hale and Dorr and a higher acceptance rate from students. The only D.C. firm surveyed whose numbers decreased was Venable, which hired 16 students this summer and 18 last summer. According to hiring partner David Goewey, the decrease is due to fewer acceptances this year. ALM’s survey also found that the average weekly salary for summer associates increased from $2,079 in 2004 to $2,105 this year � an insignificant difference, the recruiters say. Many firms, including most of the D.C. firms responding to the survey, haven’t changed their summer associate salaries at all from last year. Most D.C. firms responding to the survey reported summer associate weekly salaries of $2,400. Hilary Lewis can be contacted at [email protected].

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