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When it comes to hiring summer associates, large law firms in the suburban counties north of New York City are touting better training and quality of life to lure top-flight law students. “It’s been very hard to find high-quality candidates in Westchester County when we have to compete with the wild salaries of the big firms in New York City,” said Frank Streng, managing partner at 20-lawyer McCarthy Fingar Donovan Drazen & Smith of White Plains, N.Y. “What we offer associates is greater involvement in the trenches with client relationships, and those are opportunities they are not going to find in the big city.” Since 1981, McCarthy Fingar, has offered a summer program every other year. The firm, which has hired two second-year law students to begin in 2001, pays $900 a week. That figure, plus or minus $100, appears to be the going rate for firms in New York’s Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties, although several firms declined to provide salary figures. Both 35-lawyer Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker and 24-lawyer Keane & Beane, both in White Plains, pay their associates around $900. Jackson Lewis Schnitzler & Krupman, the second largest local firm, is paying more than $1,000. Ahead of the pack is 24-lawyer Boies Schiller & Flexner, which is paying approximately $2,000 a week, which is similar to the largest Manhattan firms’ weekly stipend. Generally informal, summer programs are run on an ad hoc basis and are not as structured as those at large firms. The firms contacted, among the largest in the New York’s 9th Judicial District, hire between two and five second-year law students and rotate them through the firm’s practice areas. In some cases, firms will forgo hiring for the summer if the firm is too busy with other projects or lacks a workload that would accommodate an associate. “We don’t really need to hire (summer) associates to fill positions. What we’re really looking for is talent. If we can find a top-notch candidate, we would definitely hire them,” declared Myra Packman, managing attorney at 30-lawyer Meiselman Farber Packman & Eberz in White Plains. BETTER TRAINING To counteract the downside of generally lower salaries, the suburban firms are marketing their better training environment. The common complaint that many summer associates at large firms in New York City offer is that the work they are given is uninteresting and not substantial. According to Philip C. Korologos, a partner at Armonk, N.Y.’s Boies Schiller & Flexner, associates at his firm get the chance to work on interesting antitrust cases involving Fortune 500 and 100 companies. Last year, summer associates worked on a price-fixing conspiracy case involving the vitamin industry. Associates this year may work on a class action suit against HMO providers. Because there are only two to five hired, they get a lot more individual attention and have a lot more responsibility, said Korologos. Suburban firms also offer students more hands-on training, stated Patrick L. Vacarro, managing partner for Jackson Lewis’s office in Westchester. This can include research, litigation support, interviewing witnesses, or helping to draft a document, he said. Jackson Lewis, with 35 attorneys in its White Plains office, specializes in employment, labor and immigration law. The firm generally hires between one and three associates for the summer. “I think associates have a much better chance of getting a quality experience at one of the smaller firms because there are fewer associates” he asserted. “If a strike comes up and we need to interview witnesses, the associates are going to help us. They’re not going to get that kind of experience anywhere else.” Firms are also marketing the fact that chances are better at securing employment if the associate does quality work. More than half the firms contacted claimed that one of their current associates came as a result of a summer experience with the firm. Chances at securing employment may be even greater as some of the firms look for a continuity in the employment relationship. Jackson Lewis hires only summer associates who will also work during the academic year. Wilson Elser likewise offers part-time work to associates during the school year. In addition, Meiselman Farber only hires an associate who they foresee making an offer to return as a full-fledged associate. This was echoed by Pace University School of Law placement dean Joy Beane. She said that local firms generally like to hire students with ties and a commitment to the community. This is so as to maximize the chance that they will be eager to return to the firm as a full-time associate and also to enhance the possibility that they might be able to attract local business. QUALITY OF LIFE Quality of life is also an issue the local firms are touting as an advantage. Firms appear to be focusing their attention on law students who enjoy a suburban environment and practicing at small to medium-sized firms in the region. Students who do not want to commute and have family and friends in the area are prime candidates. “I’m not saying that associates won’t have to work very hard, but our firms in Westchester don’t have the reputation of being legal sweatshops like the firms do in New York City. I don’t think we have that pressure to extensively bill,” explained Joel Sachs, senior partner with Keane & Beane. The north suburban firms, however, seem not to feel the need to compete with the wining-and-dining offered in large Manhattan firms’ summer programs. William Harrington Jr., a partner with 47-lawyer Bleakley, Platt & Schmidt in White Plains, said activities at his firm run to the “down-to-earth and natural,” like a softball game among attorneys or a firmwide picnic. WHAT FIRMS LOOK FOR The ideal associate, according to the firms, is an individual with a wicked combination of energy, intelligence and an insatiable desire to represent the client. That “fire in the belly” characteristic cannot be faked, said Packman. Vacarro said students must exhibit a “demonstrable interest” in the work itself, such as having taken courses during college and law school or participating in an internship specifically geared towards a particular area of practice. Pace’s Dean Beane said she had noticed a similar trend among local firms: a wish to see demonstrated practical experience in a field. “Many times, the suburban firms will want a student who has participated in a clinical program, such as an elder law clinic or a securities arbitration clinic,” she said. “That kind of experience is very valued because those firms need students to do substantive legal work. They want to make sure that the student has at least seen a complaint.” In general, students are recruited from the top-tier schools, although firms do hire from local law schools, such as Pace. Firms also stated they do not need to actively recruit on campuses because they are inundated with resumes. In general, students are hired on the basis of their grades and prior work experience, although recommendations from professors are given some weight. Firms are also taking time to consider which practice areas have greater assignment potential. According to Streng, the firm’s litigation and trusts and estates departments are better at generating student assignments than the real estate area. There’s not much an associate can do in a real estate lending transaction than listen to a conference call or go to a meeting, he said. TIME, ENERGY REQUIRED Although firms state that having associates around keeps their practice fresh, at the same time, they say running a summer program requires a tremendous commitment of time and energy by the firm’s lawyers. “In the past, it’s been a big toll to do it right,” said Streng, who was hired as a summer associate in 1981. “We want our associates to have a good learning experience and to do real legal work. To do it right, you have to be organized enough to structure decent assignments. Hopefully, you’ve planned for this so when someone rotates into your area, they have enough to do and can work independently. It has to be a good balance so it doesn’t take away from your own work.” Sometimes, the costs are too much. In 1984, 20-lawyer O’Connor McGuinness Conte Doyle and Oleson decided to forgo their summer program because their own full-time, entry-level attorneys could do much of the work given to summer associates. William Watson, a partner at the White Plains firm, said there is more continuity in working with attorneys who are going to stay at the firm, than with students who will leave after a couple months. Another view is that profitability should not be the only consideration in deciding whether to offer a program. Neil Rimsky of 26-lawyer Cuddy Feder & Worby said he believes that even if associates are not superstar candidates, the firm has an ethical responsibility to train young lawyers.

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