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Hiring partners at Connecticut’s biggest firms say that lingering economic uncertainty will not impact the number of offers they make to their summer associates this year. Nor, they insist, do they plan to hold summer associates to higher than usual standards, as they conduct exit interviews, in a bid to trim their future staffing levels. Still, some hiring partners interviewed admitted that they do expect their firms to recruit fewer third-year law students this fall, thus making it tougher for summer associates who aren’t extended offers to line up employment before graduating next spring. SMALLER CLASS SIZE “Unless the world were coming to an end,” Hartford-based Day, Berry & Howard would not go back on the stated approach of its summer program, which is to give offers to all summer associates who meet the firm’s hiring criteria, said hiring partner Paula Lacey Herman. Those criteria, Herman added, will be no different from last year, despite the less than glowing economy over the first half of this year and fears that legal business may plummet as a result. Herman, however, noted that Day Berry has substantially fewer second-year students in its current summer class than it did last year. Firmwide, DBH took on 19 summer associates this year — including 16 second-years — compared to 24 last year, all but one of whom were in their second year of law school at the time, according to Herman. The firm’s policy is only to make offers to second-year students. In putting together its current summer program last year, “we made a conscious decision to keep it on the small side,” in part because of expectations that the economy would begin to slip, she said. The smaller class size also reflects Day Berry’s aim to do more lateral hiring, in keeping with clients’ growing concerns over paying for lawyers’ training, she added. As for third-year recruiting this fall to round out next fall’s incoming associate class, Herman said she expects the firm will be “less aggressive” than in the past. HOLDING COURSE Stamford-based Cummings & Lockwood also doesn’t intend to put its summer associates through tougher than usual exit interviews, according to hiring partner Wendi J. Kemp. “We’re holding them to the same standards” as always, she said. “The question is whether there’s a need in a particular [practice] area where the summer associate wants to work.” Sometimes, a summer associate, Kemp said, can be a “superstar,” but still won’t be hired because of a lack of need for an entry-level lawyer in the field in which the law student hopes to practice. Such an issue arose in the first — and only — exit interview Cummings & Lockwood had conducted by press time, Kemp said. But she added that, as it has done in similar circumstances in the past, the firm will go out of its way to make sure other firms where that candidate interviews are aware that it wasn’t a performance issue that kept the person from being hired. “Certainly, you don’t want to harm a candidate’s chances of finding another position,” Kemp said. Kemp said that, as of last week, Cummings & Lockwood’s practice groups were still in the process of finalizing their hiring needs for the coming year. She was also uncertain whether the firm’s nine other summer associates in Connecticut who are eligible to receive an offer this year would also request a job in a particular practice area. How many of the firm’s offers are accepted will dictate the extent to which Cummings & Lockwood will recruit third-years in the fall. Last year, all eight of the firm’s offers were accepted, Kemp noted. “We had the luxury of not having to go out and hire additional help.” Other hiring partners interviewed last week said they have no reason to cut back on hiring. “I haven’t seen any downturn [in work] where we would need to reconfigure our [hiring] needs,” said Glenn A. Santoro, of Hartford’s Robinson & Cole. Firmwide, R&C has 10 summer associates — one more than last year. Likewise, Tyler Cooper & Alcorn hiring partner Thomas S. Marrion said the firm has no reason to alter its exit-interview strategy. Traditionally, the firm makes offers to all summer associates who are in their second year of law school and display the necessary skill level for the job, Marrion said. Tyler Cooper, he maintained, isn’t about to veer from that course this year.

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