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At the dawn of the nineteenth century, Wordsworth wrote that it was “bliss” to be alive at such a time. “But to be young,” he rhapsodized, “was very heaven!” He could scarcely have envisioned what life would be like for the first generation of law school graduates in the twenty-first century. Yet his verse is apropos of this year’s summer associates. Law school students of the summer of 2000 were barely out of diapers in the late seventies when corporate America began laying off workers in alarming numbers. They were still in middle school when the stock market crashed in 1987, and they were enjoying carefree high school days when the economy was struggling to rebound in the early nineties. In their young adult lives, they have never known a stock market that wasn’t going up, an economy that wasn’t booming, a horizon that wasn’t limitless. This year’s summer associates are happy, but then summer associates are always happy. So what is it that distinguishes one generation of about-to-be lawyers from any other? This year, we’ve compared the results of the 2000 Summer Associate Survey with those from 1999 and 1998 (the first year we expanded the survey from ten questions to more than 40), and here is the profile that emerges: MORE WOMEN, MORE IP LAWYERS Demographically, the ratio of females to males is inching closer to fifty-fifty. And the ubiquity of the Internet in American life has had an effect on what types of law they intend to practice. Only two years ago, 10 percent of summer associates identified intellectual property as the area in which they hoped to practice; today, IP practice is the goal of nearly 17 percent. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE MONEY The most striking feature of this year’s summer associates, however, is that they are less focused on compensation. In a year when money seems to rain like manna on law school graduates, these summer associates were less likely to identify it as their primary reason for becoming lawyers. In 1998, 71.4 percent of summer associates said they wanted to be lawyers because it paid well, but that percentage has fallen by over 10 percentage points. More than half of this year’s summer associates said they were making between $2,300 and $2,500 per week, and almost one-third said they were not accumulating a significant amount of debt to get through law school. Money is apparently not their raison d’�tre; it’s a given. As far as the majority of these summer associates know, it’s always been there, and always will be. IT’S ALSO ABOUT DOING WHAT LAWYERS DO So, what’s motivating them? Many say they want to become lawyers because they like the substance of the work (legal research and writing), a factor far fewer identified in 1998 and 1999 as a reason for pursuing a law degree. Not so long ago, the practice of law was seen as simply a fallback position, or a career by default for many students. Even as recently as 1998, 44.4 percent of respondents said they chose law school because they weren’t sure what they wanted to do, and a law degree gave them lots of options. This year, only 36.7 percent are so noncommittal about why they chose a legal career. More summer associates in 2000 said they wanted to become lawyers because they like to argue and are interested in politics than did summer associates in 1998 and 1999. Like their peers in 1998, many in this group actually like doing detail work. And, although it’s not clear why, this year’s summer associates are somewhat less interested in becoming lawyers as a way of meeting powerful people, and are more influenced in their career choice by people they know who are already lawyers. AND IT’S ABOUT LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Compared to their counterparts of two years ago, summer associates now are significantly more likely to choose a firm because of its location than because of its prestige, its high pay, or its strength in a particular practice area. Prestige and compensation were rated at less than 4.0 (on a scale of 1 to 5) as factors in such a decision. But the number who chose “desire to live in a particular city” as a reason for selecting a firm for the summer shot up by almost 15 percentage points this year. As a reason for taking a permanent position, 6 percent more than a year ago deemed it one of the most important deciding factors. Apparently, the Howard Johnson rule (location, location, location) has been adopted by this group. They value “where” more than they value “how much.” ALL SUMMER ASSOCIATE PROGRAMS ARE NOW “ABOVE AVERAGE” The law firm experience for summer associates seems to have been frozen in time. As in recent years, they continue to enjoy how they are treated by partners, their work, the training and guidance they receive, and other benchmarks of the summer associate experience, at almost precisely the same levels of satisfaction as those who came before them. Their gripes are rarely substantive (the coffee, too many social outings, the lunch allowance, the firm’s decor). This suggests that the art of training-and-entertaining summer associates has pretty much become a system, albeit a very successful one. Time for innovation? SUMMER ASSOCIATES KNOW WHAT THE REAL WORLD IS ALL ABOUT The 2000 summer associates may be a little less starry-eyed than their predecessors. In 1998, 85 percent had a “fairly good” or “very strong” idea of what it would be like to be a full-time associate at their firm. Although that number dropped almost 10 percentage points this year, candid comments in responses to open-ended questions indicate that these summer associates have few illusions about how hard real lawyers work. As one Kirkland & Ellis summer associate describes it, “I had to come in once on a Sunday, and I was a little surprised to find at least a dozen associates and even a few partners in the office. It just underscored to me that, no matter how hard you try to maintain a life outside the office, when work calls, you have to answer.” Not surprisingly, in this age of “Oprah” and “Survivor,” the summer associates of 2000 seem adept at sizing up the psychological undercurrents of a firm — which folks are uptight, which are genuinely friendly, and when the whole crew is a simmering pot of resentment waiting to boil over. Where lack of diversity and insensitivity to family situations were perceived to exist, dozens and dozens of summer associates expressed their concerns. THEY’RE NOT ALL PLANNING TO RUN AWAY TO JOIN A DOT-COM Here’s a discovery that might break the hearts of partners nationwide who bit the bullet to keep up with Silicon Valley and Alley salary wars. Only 8.4 percent said they were actively considering joining a dot-com startup or other tech industry endeavor. Only 3.1 percent see themselves working in a technology-related business five years from now. Instead, they see themselves working in the firms where they summered, just like the generations of summer associates who came before. But perhaps the salary hikes did what they were intended to do after all. Over 64 percent said that, even if the right tech industry opportunity came along, a large salary would be enough of an inducement to join a law firm. Additionally, budding associates are more interested (by over 5 percent than in previous years) in what kinds of benefits a firm has to offer. MOST WANT TO JOIN THE FIRM They like the money. They care about the benefits package. They want to be lawyers. They’re ready to join the firm. In this, the “very heaven” summer of 2000, these were a particularly serene and secure, blissful and yet level-headed group of summer associates. Related chart

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