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Pittsburgh law firms are getting better at attracting students from law schools throughout the country, but the firms are still lagging behind in the hiring of minority students, according to a survey of first-year associates. The survey, conducted by the Western Pennsylvania Legal Intelligencer and The Legal Intelligencer, includes responses from 12 of the city’s largest law firms. The responding firms brought in a combined 81 first-year associates to their Pittsburgh offices this fall. The survey indicates that many young lawyers are leaving their initial firms during their third year there. Of those hired in 1998, slightly more than half (58 percent) remain with their initial firms. Of those joining firms in 1999, 73 percent remain with their initial employers, while 92 percent of last year’s first-year associates are still with the firms they first joined. As for this year’s group, 67 percent of the new hires spent the summer between their second and third years of law school with their current firm, 16.7 percent had never spent time with the firm before, and 20.5 percent were summer associates during both summers of law school summers. Just 3.8 percent went back to a firm after summering with it as a 1L and trying another job as a 2L. Four of the 81 newcomers, or 5.1 percent, spent last year in a judicial clerkship, with half working for a federal judge and half for a state judge. Slightly more than 44 percent of the new hires are women. But firms struggled to recruit African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and members of other minority groups into the fold. Of this year’s first-year associates, 6.2 percent are African-American and 2.5 percent are Asian-American; 4.9 percent were listed as “other” in the minority category. The city’s law firms did not attract any associates identified as Hispanics. Although Pittsburgh houses law firms with international recognition, it has never ranked with cities like New York or Boston in attracting talent from across the country. Many Pittsburgh lawyers are natives of the region, attended one of the city’s two law schools or have some other tie to the area. But the survey shows that the number of non-connected lawyers going for a job with a Pittsburgh firm may be increasing. More than half, or 51.3 percent, of this year’s new hires were reared in Pittsburgh; 21.8 percent attended college or law school in the city and 28.2 percent had come to the area for the first time. While the law schools at Pitt and Duquesne still place the most graduates in city firms, schools like Duke, George Washington, Vanderbilt and Michigan are increasing their representation. Legal recruiter Susan Fletcher said Pittsburgh had consistently attracted a small number of outsiders because of the reputation of its legal community. “Firms here are good enough that they have always attracted people based on caliber of the firm and caliber of the city,” Fletcher said. “We have very large firms here, with offices in many cities. And those firms are always an attractive option.” Fletcher added that unless you are talking about cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco that traditionally attract job hunters, most in the legal field are still looking for a connection to an area before locating there. For that reason, she said, Pittsburgh will always have more first-year lawyers who are from the region or who attended school in the area. But she added that it is easier to attract first-timers because the salaries in Pittsburgh, compared with the cost of living, add up to more for the money. “When putting everything into an equation, this is a good choice,” Fletcher said. Pitt placed the most graduates among the city’s firms, with 23, while Duquesne placed 18. George Washington was next, with four graduates choosing Pittsburgh, while Vanderbilt, Duke, Dickinson and Michigan each placed three graduates. West Virginia, Ohio Northern, Georgetown and Texas Southern each placed two graduates, while Penn, the University of Virginia, William & Mary, Notre Dame, Syracuse, the University of North Carolina, Case Western, Ohio State, Buffalo, Tennessee, Hamline, the University of Southern California, Tulsa and Washington & Lee placed one graduate each in Pittsburgh firms. As for compensation, four of the 12 firms surveyed have bumped up their starting salaries since last fall, with Thorp Reed & Armstrong showing the most significant increase. The firm increased starting salaries by $7,500, from $82,500 a year ago to $90,000 this fall. Pepper Hamilton and Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling raised their starting salaries from $100,000 to $105,000, while Meyer Unkovic & Scott raised its salary from $70,000 to $75,000. Seven of the 12 firms surveyed pay a base starting salary of at least $100,000. Firms that participated included Reed Smith, Buchanan Ingersoll, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, Thorp Reed, Klett Rooney, Dickie McCamey & Chilcote, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, DKW Law Group, Meyer Unkovic, Pepper Hamilton, Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Jones Day Reavis & Pogue.

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