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Law students embarking on clerkships at large Texas firms this summer rate luckier than their counterparts last year. Or, at least, the 2002 crop has overcome steeper odds to nab those summer postings. That’s because most large Texas firms dramatically reduced the number of law students they hired this summer. Overall, the 24 largest firms in the state hired 15 percent fewer clerks this summer. The firms hired a total of 1,099 clerks, compared to 1,291 the previous year. Specifically, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, Haynes and Boone, and Hughes & Luce each hired at least 30 percent fewer summer hires compared to the previous year. For those law students who received summer employment offers, however, the good news is that weekly salaries haven’t dipped — at one firm, it has increased. Most firms pay $2,100 a week, the same as last year, but Jenkens & Gilchrist raised summer associate salaries by $200 this year to $2,200 a week. Only one of the state’s largest firms, Fulbright & Jaworski, increased the number of summer associates it hired this year, tapping 23 percent more clerks. “The firm is very busy across all offices. We wanted to hire more than last year, and we did better than expected on our acceptance rate,” John Sullivan III, the hiring partner at Fulbright & Jaworksi, says. At most firms, where the clerks’ ranks thinned, the explanations centered on the economy and, in one case, the turmoil created by the Sept. 11 attacks on America. “We were conservative about the number of offers we made in the fall,” says Lauren Sager. “Those decisions were made back in September and October during times when it wasn’t clear what was going to happen,” says Sager, the recruiting manager at Jenkens & Gilchrist. The firm hired 60 law students, or 36.7 percent fewer summer associates this year than 2001. Sager stresses, however, that the firm isn’t worried about its economic future now. “We’re back in the growth mode,” she says. At Vinson & Elkins, which recently severed its relationship with former client Enron Corp., the number of clerks shrunk considerably this summer. Vinson & Elkins hired 147 law students, or roughly 20 percent less than last year. “In some offices, like Dallas and New York, we decided not to have a first-year program. There was a desire instead to focus on our second-year law students,” says Vinson & Elkins hiring partner Thomas Leatherbury, who works from the Dallas office. At Haynes and Boone, fewer summer associates will roam the halls. The firm hired 99 law students this summer, compared to 148 in 2001, a drop of about 33 percent. But Taylor Wilson, the hiring partner at the Dallas-based firm, downplays the significance of the smaller summer class. “I think it is important to note that we are not viewing this as any downturn,” he says. “[T]he hiring will still be close to the triple digits. We’re just as enthusiastic about this summer as we ever were.” The summer of 2001, Wilson says, was an exception. “We had our all-time high last year,” Wilson says. The decline this summer, he says, is “not a reflection of anything than what our projected needs are. Working with our department heads, we plan up to three years in advance. This group will start working in the fall of 2003, and we had to figure what we would need then.”

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