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Law schools in and around New York City reported that this year’s recruiting season amounted to nothing less than a stampede of legal employers, some competing over the same top students, others digging deeper into the class. Schools such as Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Brooklyn Law School, New York Law School and St. John’s University School of Law said they experienced as much as a 15 to 20 percent increase in the number of large and medium-size firms on campus this fall. Both private and public employers, large, medium and small, were contacting law schools not only in larger numbers but also earlier than ever, according to career development officials. And the sky-high salaries that the large firms are offering, coupled with the large debt loads accrued by students, are increasing the pressure on candidates at some schools to bypass judicial clerkships, public interest and government work for more lucrative employment. “It’s a fine time for us here now, as compared to 1993,” said Barbara J. Mehrman, assistant dean for career planning and counseling at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. “I noticed a greater sense of eagerness to come on campus to recruit,” said Caroline Levy, senior assistant dean for career services at Hofstra University School of Law. This observation was true for most schools. One school even had to alter its schedule. Because of the aggressive push by firms to come to campus in early August, New York Law School added an early interview week in mid-August, a week or so before the school year even started. This allowed the school’s students to compete effectively with those at other schools which had already adopted the practice. Most schools reported their on-campus recruiting season started in mid-August and was over by mid-October. An increase in firms and other employers on campus means it is no longer just the top 10 to 20 percent of the second-year students at most New York City area schools who are obtaining interviews and offers from large and medium-size Manhattan firms, said school officials. Although many schools were unwilling to release precise numbers, they claimed that the top one-fourth are receiving multiple interviews with large and mid-size firms. And it is by no means just those law students with technology backgrounds who are being snapped up. Nancy Kramer, director of the Center for Professional Development at Cardozo, said law firms are more attracted than ever to students with diverse and unique backgrounds. “People with life experience are finally being appreciated,” said Kramer. Meanwhile, things at the top are not lonely. Both New York University School of Law and Columbia University Law School claim to have had busier recruiting seasons this fall. Officials at both schools said that more students received callback interviews than in prior years, though they would not be specific about the totals. Also, NYU hosted 10 to 12 investment banks this year, an increase from previous years, according to Irene Dorzback, assistant dean of the law school’s office of career counseling and placement. Columbia also saw its share of investment banks. Previously, recruiters from the top banks visited the law school in November. But this year, realizing that all the desirable students might already have offers, they came with the law firms, in August and September, said Ellen Wayne, the head of the career services office there. There is some fallout from the frenzy on campus. At least five law schools reported that that their top students, courted by multiple Manhattan firms waiving $125,000 salaries plus bonuses, are less enthusiastic about applying for judicial clerkships, which typically pay annual salaries in 30s and 40s. “A number [have passed on] clerkships because of the high salaries and … the loans,” said Danielle Aptekar, director of operations for career services at New York Law School. James F. Castro-Blanco, head of career services at St. John’s law school, agrees. “No one argues with the prestige of the position or the kind of experience a clerkship will be. But it’s a harder sell, in particular to second career and married people,” he said. The accelerated employment process is influencing the clerkship application procedure as well. Federal judges bent on competing with each other and with firms for the best and the brightest are starting recruiting in October, according to law school recruitment personnel. “This is the earliest for clerkship applications the schools have ever seen,” said Wayne of Columbia. “Law firm interviews and clerkship interviews for many are now at the same time,” she said. And although most schools have reported an increase in government employers and nonprofits on campus, officials noted fewer students are applying for those jobs. For example, at New York University, fewer students are signing up for interviews with public interest organizations, said Dorzback, and some groups have cancelled because of the lack of interest. Meanwhile, with all the new employers, call-backs, offers and cocktail parties, the students were said to be burned out by November just as they are getting ready for final exams, said school officials. “The entire hiring process is so accelerated now,” said Castro-Blanco of St. John’s. Yet while the law schools are grateful about the current state of the employment market, some are starting to worry about the future. “It’s all good news now. I just hopes it continues,” said Kramer of Cardozo.

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