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Chart: Summer Classes on the Rise When Latham & Watkins convened its summer academy on June 8 in Phoenix, there were more students on hand than most Top 10 law schools will enroll this fall. The gargantuan class size of one big summer associate program, as opposed to having separate, regional activities, presented a logistical challenge: how to keep all those students busy for 13 weeks. The answer, Latham discovered, was to let the students do it themselves. Instead of having partners and associates delegate all the projects to summer associates, as some firms do, Latham created a network-based assignment system that allows the students to make their own selections. “It produces a kind of market economy within the firm,” said Juli Marshall, a Latham partner and head of the firm’s recruiting committee. “Even if they are too busy to take on additional work, they will [at least] know the project is there.” This year, most law firms with a California presence are bringing in more summer associates than ever before. Latham topped the charts with 276 summer associates nationwide, a 27 percent jump from last year. And to accommodate all the extra training, firms are giving students more say in choosing their work for the summer. Some law firms have a history of relaxing workplace policies, letting summer associates venture between offices to compare and contrast cities as they decide which place to call home. At Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman’s Washington, D.C., office, summer associates are allowed to take off part of the summer and pitch in with a public interest group while still collecting a weekly salary from the firm. Pillsbury recruiter Stephanie Persi said the firm emphasizes flexibility with its summer associates, knowing many of them view the months before their third year at law school as their best opportunity to do volunteer work. “This is the best of both worlds,” Persi said. This year, Pillsbury has hired 99 summer associates nationwide, 41 percent more than last year. That includes 15 more summers over last year in California alone. As law firms upgrade the training component of their summer programs year after year, even those with a more manageable class size have invested in a network-based work assignment system to let summers pick projects themselves. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s SWAP system � “Summer Work Assignment Program” � was designed specifically to allow summer associates instant access to available projects in all of the firm’s practice areas. With 50 students in California and 71 nationwide, Wilson Sonsini’s summer associate class is on par with many in the Am Law 100, but it is certainly not the largest around. Even so, the SWAP system has gotten a strong response from students and has helped attorneys follow up quickly on the students’ progress throughout the summer, said Sara Harrington, a hiring partner at Wilson Sonsini. “We’re always looking for feedback from our summer associates about what they would like more of and what they would like less of,” she said. The overall increase in the summer associate ranks reflects confidence about growth in the economy, recruiters say. Keeping in line with first-year associate pay increases over the past year, many firms hiked the weekly salary for summer associates to $2,600 or more. Summer associate numbers are generally seen as an indication of a law firm’s near-term hiring strategy, but that doesn’t always mean fewer summer associates today brings belt-tightening times tomorrow. “I wouldn’t say that those two are inextricably tied,” said Fiona Trevelyan, the national recruiting coordinator for Bingham McCutchen, which saw its summer associates program shrink from 84 to 63 students this year. Last year’s numbers were much higher than the firm had expected, primarily because some offices, such as Silicon Valley, had a 100 percent acceptance rate among students who were offered summer positions, she said. “It was wonderful, but it’s a rarity,” Trevelyan said, adding that this year represents a more typical summer season. And of course, whether growing or slumping, no summer program would be complete without a taste of la bella vita. Summer associates at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe will sip cocktails at chairman Ralph Baxter’s San Francisco home, while Reed Smith will form teams of summer associates and attorneys to prepare a meal at Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco. Wilson Sonsini has already sent its summers on a Wine Country bike tour and plans to also send them on a tour with its coolest client, Google. Wilson’s Harrington said she’s especially looking forward to the firm’s backpacking trip to Yosemite National Park, which has become a tradition. But it’s hard to forget that while socializing and entertainment are key elements of recruiting, the purpose of it all is to attract talent and groom the future leaders of the firm. “Sometimes you hear about something having gone amok,” Harrington, said. “That hasn’t happened yet, so we’re very excited.”

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