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Hiring by large New Jersey law firms for their summer programs remained strong in 2001, as firms hiked salaries to stave off competition from New York and Philadelphia firms both within and without the Garden State. Eighteen of New Jersey’s largest firms tracked in an annual New Jersey Law Journal survey hired 163 summer associates this year, nearly unchanged from the 167 hired a year ago by the same firms. And pay scales are higher as firms compete for talent not only among each other but also with firms in New York, Philadelphia and other cities. The average salary among the surveyed firms was $1,632 a week, a 13.8 percent increase over $1,435 last year. Dawne Smith, director of career services at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, says 2000 and 2001 have been stellar years for interns. A large number of law students got multiple offers for summer associate jobs in 2001 and those offers were also made to students “deeper in the class,” says Smith. But these lazy, hazy, crazy days may be just fond memories next year, due not only to the general downturn in the economy — which postdated the hiring decisions for 2001 — but also to competition from out-of-state firms. Indeed, even the state’s highest salaries — at McCarter & English of Newark and Drinker Biddle & Shanley of Florham Park, which are paying second-year (2L) summer associates $2,000 a week — lag behind New York firms, which pay $2,100 to $2,300 a week. It’s hard to compete with those numbers. Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti’s summer class dropped from 16 last year to 10 this year. Recruitment director Alison Feldman says the reduction wasn’t a conscious effort. The Morristown, N.J., firm made the same number of offers and even raised its salary but had a lower acceptance rate this year than last, she says. Giordano, Halleran and Ciesla went a step further and scrapped its entire summer program, for the first time in 10 years. Bernard Berry, the supervising partner, says students don’t return after graduation, being lured away by higher salaries in New York and Boston. Of last year’s six summer associates, only one is a prospect for employment. The Middletown, N.J., firm will concentrate on recruiting judicial clerks and laterals from central New Jersey, who would be more likely to settle down there than be drawn to a city, Berry says. Even Pitney, Hardin, Kipp & Szuch in Florham Park — which led all Nw Jersey firms with 20 summer associates, up from 13 last year — did so with a view toward adding lawyers at the firm’s newly expanded New York office, says Hope Cohn, recruitment committee chairman. SPLITTING THE LOAF The competition for associates has fostered a new lure for candidates — the “split summer option.” Popular in the Southwest and Midwest, the arrangement enables students to get a taste of associate life at two firms. This year, one summer associate at Roseland’s Lowenstein Sandler is doing a split summer. Three took the option at Pitney Hardin, all students who were 1Ls there last year and will be coming back for three weeks or so at the end of this summer after working in other firms. “We have found that although these first-year students enjoy their summer experience with us and are extended offers to return for the summer after their second year of law school, they typically choose to try a different experience following their second year of law school,” says Pitney Hardin’s Cohn. “When that occurs, we find that these students may not consider our firm as their first choice for full-time employment because at the time they are ready to make their employment decisions, they have spent two years away from this firm and likely feel no strong connection,” she adds. With the partial summer option, “the law student has the ability to experience a different work environment during their summer and, at the same time, renew their ties to our firm with the opportunity to work in a department where they may ultimately wish to practice law upon graduation,” says Cohn. Mary Beth Daisey, director of career services at Rutgers Law School-Camden, says the split-summer concept has yet to find adherents in southern New Jersey. Although it opens doors for students, it carries greater risk for firms. “The firm has a 50-50 chance of getting that student,” she says. The downside is that the firm has less opportunity to evaluate the student and the student gets more exposure to another firm for which he or she may decide to work. Competition also has moved up the recruitment process for summer associate programs. Interviews typically took place in September and October, but firms are scheduling August meetings to get dibs on the talent. Those interviews will be the best barometer on what is likely to happen next year. Smith says the number of firms booked to recruit on campus for 2002 summer associate programs is the same as for 2001, but she says that in speaking with firms she senses hiring won’t be as strong as in the past two years. Recruiting partners tend to agree. “I dare say there are probably law firms around — I don’t think we are one of them — that I think wish if they could roll back the clock nine months, wouldn’t hire the same number of 2Ls,” says Joseph Steinberg, chairman of the recruitment committee at Lowenstein Sandler. “Firms were still caught up in the hiring craze of ’98 and ’99, and a lot of firms did not anticipate that there would be some potential slowdown in legal work and possibly a slowdown in the rate of growth of law firms,” he says. Rutgers-Camden’s Daisey says most New Jersey firms have been more conservative than out-of-state firms about hiring during the recent economic boom. That caution will likely mean a softer landing than in the late 1980s and early 1990s when many firms that had dramatically expanded their payrolls had to institute layoffs a few years later. But firms almost never deviate from the tradition of offering full-time employment after graduation to former summer associates who make a good showing. To do otherwise can be disastrous. Before its demise in 1999, Hannoch Weisman of Roseland laid off its summer associates after seven weeks instead of keeping them on for the traditional 11 or 12 weeks. “Word got out on every major campus,” sabotaging future recruiting efforts, says Steinberg.

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