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Just like revenues, profits and hours-based bonuses, summer associate classes are much smaller this year than last at most San Francisco Bay Area firms. While the bulk of summer associates don’t arrive until later this month, a few early arrivals started work Monday. The new arrivals can get used to the cozy atmosphere — in some cases, they’re part of summer classes cut by more than half. Palo Alto, Calif.’s Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati slashed the size of its summer class to 31 from last year’s 72, a 57 percent reduction. San Francisco-based Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, which has undergone two rounds of layoffs and a voluntary buyout, cut its summer class by 52 percent, to 62 associates from last summer’s 129. There is a notable exception to the contraction trend, however. San Francisco’s Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe grew its summer class by three associates over last year’s 54. For most Silicon Valley firms, the shrunken size of summer classes signals that firm managers don’t expect the economic doldrums to lift before this summer’s class becomes next fall’s first years. “We’re comfortable with lower numbers,” said Richard Yankwich, the recruiting partner at Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich. “We’d like to grow, but I think we can do that on the spot,” he said, adding that shrinking the ranks, which the firm did with a layoff in January, is more difficult to do “on the spot.” Gray Cary is playing host to 46 summer associates this year, a 23 percent decrease from last year’s 60 students. San Francisco’s Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe cut its program by 29 percent, to 49 from last year’s 69 summer associates; San Francisco-based Morrison & Foerster’s class has shrunk from 130 to 71; and Palo Alto-based Cooley Godward is playing host to 55 compared with 65 last year. The few who made the cut for this year’s programs can expect to spend more time with litigators, said firm and program managers. “We’re busy in litigation, and a much higher percentage [of summers] have shown an interest in litigation than they have before,” said Gordon Davidson, chairman of Palo Alto’s Fenwick & West. Fenwick & West cut its program to 30 summers from last year’s 59, a 49 percent decrease. Davidson said the firm didn’t cut back spending, however, and will still show the summer associates a good time. “Other than the fact that we have half as many people, we still have the same basic program,” Davidson said. Heller Ehrman, meanwhile, was a beneficiary of the scaled-back programs of its nearest competitors. But that’s not too surprising given that while revenues and profits were down at many Bay Area firms, Heller Ehrman managed to boost its revenues and profits in 2001. The firm swelled profits by 15 percent, to $645,000 per partner, and revenues by 26 percent, to $331 million. And the firm’s attorney ranks grew by 14 percent. Neil Popovic, the Heller Ehrman partner who is co-chairman of the firm’s summer program, said more students accepted the firm’s offers than in prior years. The firm also managed to bag top candidates, Popovic added. With many large Bay Area firms giving out fewer offers, students had fewer choices, and competition for the top candidates was diminished, Popovic added. But the firm’s life sciences and litigation practices, both of which are humming along despite the economic downturn, were a draw for students, he said. “There was a buzz about us,” Popovic said. The firm also isn’t trimming spending when it comes to showing the students a good time. “Everyone is being thoughtful about what we spend money on, but the summer associates program is a very important program to our firm,” Popovic said. “It’s the primary way we attract junior associates.”

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