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Every fall, law students in Texas can count on midterms, cooler weather and the migration of recruiters to campus. This year was no different. Salaries remain high and competition for the best and the brightest students for jobs as summer associates and first-year associates is strong, according to officials at the state’s nine law schools. “We had more employers come on campus this year, over 300,” says Kathryn Holt Richardson, assistant dean for career services at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin. Paula Patton, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement in Washington, D.C., says schools are still sending in their reports, but the recruiting season this year appears to be active and highly competitive. “Anecdotally, the competition for talented new hires is as strong as ever,” she says. “The schools’ rosters were full again this year.” Dan Micciche, hiring partner in Dallas’ Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, says his firm recruited at 31 campuses this fall, looking for approximately 62 second-year students for summer-associate jobs, about the same number as last year. Jim Reeder, hiring partner in Vinson & Elkins in Houston, says his firm visited 25 campuses this year, five more than last fall. The trips took in universities in Texas, Louisiana, California, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and the Washington, D.C., area. The Houston office will have about 70 interns next summer, approximately the same number of summer associates it had this year, he says. Tom Godbold, hiring partner in Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski, says representatives from the firm’s Texas offices went to 26 campuses and four job fairs this fall, compared to 27 campuses and three job fairs last year. He estimates there will be about 75 summer associates working at the firm next summer, a drop from the 91 last year, which he attributes to normal supply-and-demand changes. For the most part, officials at the nine law schools in Texas say that on-campus recruiting is holding steady or increasing slightly compared to last year. One school, Texas Wesleyan School of Law, reports a decrease in the number of firms that showed up this fall, but an increase in recruiting at job fairs. The process begins with students sending in r�sum�s, usually through their schools’ career services offices, to firms that have signed up to come to the campuses. The firms then make appointments with the students they want to interview for summer associate and first-year associate positions. After the meetings at the schools, students who make the cut typically go to the firms for more interviews. In Texas, students generally have split internships, so 2L’s are looking for two jobs. The firms that make the annual pilgrimage to college campuses are usually the larger ones, with a few mid-sized ones mixed in. They’re often interested in students in the top 5 percent to 10 percent of their class. Firms also recruit at job fairs, where the students come to them, and through job postings. The majority of recruiters at Texas law schools come from Texas firms, but there’s also a mix of out-of-state representatives. The states represented this year include New Mexico, California, Florida and New York, as well as Washington, D.C. This fall, the University of Texas School of Law was the biggest draw in the state; 300-plus employers came to the Austin campus, many of them from out of state. Richardson attributes the high numbers to her school’s ranking in U.S. News & World Report (UT was ranked No. 15 in the Spring 2000 issue) and an increased interest in the Texas legal market. The University of Houston Law Center was visited by representatives from 127 firms this year, Merle Morris, director of career services, says. At Baylor University School of Law in Waco, 106 firms were represented this fall, according to Katherine Logue, director of career services. Career services personnel report visits by about 85 firms to Southern Methodist University School of Law in Dallas; 66 to Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock; and 60 to South Texas College of Law in Houston. Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth pulled in 37 firms this year, while 27 visited St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, officials at those schools say. About 25 firms went to Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston this year, Charlotte Washington, director of communications, says. The top students, especially at the top-tier schools, are always on the most-wanted list of the major firms. Those are the jobs that pay the most; at big Texas firms, the going base salary for a first-year associate is $115,000, and many of the large-market firms paid their summer 2000 associates $1,700 per week. Other options for students are clerkships, government work, positions at legal services organizations and jobs at smaller firms. TRADEOFFS Career services officials agree that the big-paying jobs are attractive to budding lawyers, but add that some students — including a good number in the top rank of their class — follow their hearts and take lower-paying clerkship or government positions. “They certainly take notice of what the firms are paying,” says Kelly Noblin, assistant dean of career services at the Southern Methodist University law school. “But a lot of students are saying, ‘I don’t have to make $100,000 a year.’ Some say, ‘I want the experience.’ “ Reginald Green, director of career services at South Texas College of Law, says the students at the top of the class are attracted to the big firms, but adds that some are more interested in judicial clerkships that might pay half of what they could make somewhere else. Kay Fletcher, assistant dean at the Texas Tech University School of Law, says a good number of students go the judicial clerkship route. And Cathy Parnell, assistant director of career services at Texas Wesleyan, says half of the top students at the school have expressed an interest in public sector jobs. Karen Rolfini-Beckenstein, director of career services at St. Mary’s, says students have a variety of career goals. “We have students interested in going to the DA’s office or public interest organizations or the smaller firms,” she says. Patton says the Texas experience is reflected nationwide. “Clearly, there are students who are less interested in the top jobs because they understand that there are tradeoffs on lifestyles,” she says. “Some want the jobs with prestige. Many are interested in public service if their circumstances allow it.” Not everyone, though, can ignore the money. Many new lawyers must figure out a way to pay off their school loans and still have enough left over to eat. The debt for a law student can reach five figures, at both public and private universities. The University of Texas School of Law estimates that the average debt of law graduates who used student loans to finance their education is $41,000. The figure at a private university generally is higher — at Southern Methodist University School of Law, it’s estimated to be around $65,000. “With salaries so high and the level of debt these kids are carrying, money is a concern,” Logue, of Baylor University School of Law, says. “The big firms are paying $110,000 a year now, plus bonuses. It’s a hard decision when the salary gap is that big. Some are thinking that they’ll pay off their debt, then move to the public sector.” Godbold says money is only part of the equation when a student picks a summer associate or first-year associate job. “Salary is a big draw, but it probably ranks second behind the quality of work at a firm,” he says.

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