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Last year’s summer associate programs were extremely popular at many D.C. law firms. Too popular, in fact. Acceptance rates were so high for 2001 that firms ended up with more students than they expected. Last fall, those firms extended fewer offers to accommodate a higher acceptance rate. The result, with a handful of exceptions, is that a slightly smaller army of law students will descend on the city’s law offices this summer. Howrey Simon Arnold & White, which last year inaugurated its “boot camp” and had 48 summer associates, ended up with 40 this year. Covington & Burling had 55 summer associates last summer and expects 52 this year. Wiley Rein & Fielding, which had 23 in 2001, will have 19 this year. Arnold & Porter will bring in 56 this year, down from 80 last year. “Last year, we were aiming for the same number as for this year, but we had a higher acceptance rate than in prior years,” says Arnold & Porter managing partner James Sandman. “This year we adjusted the number of offers we made to reflect our higher acceptance rate.” Covington & Burling did the same, according to partner Mark Plotkin. “Our yield on offers on campus has been creeping up steadily,” he says. “We’ve cut back on the total offers we make to get the same number of people.” ‘PROTECTED MARKET’ The higher acceptance rates may reflect the growing appeal of D.C.-based firms. Their expansion into other cities over the past few years has raised their national visibility. More important, their diversified practices have withstood the recession well. “Washington has been a protected market economically,” says Plotkin. “We’re not dependent on a sector of the economy. It makes the major firms in this market very appealing.” Despite economic turmoil and retrenchment at several national law firms, gross revenue in many of the city’s large firms grew in 2001. Crowell & Moring, which saw a 65 percent increase in gross revenue between 2000 and 2001 and a high acceptance rate on campuses, will have 33 summer associates this year, also a 65 percent increase from the 20 it had last year. Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, with 56 incoming summer associates, has 17 more than last year. Local law schools that braced for a tough year for placing summer associates are finding the situation better than expected. Gihan Fernando, assistant dean for career services at Georgetown University Law Center, says he was worried that there would be fewer offers for summer associates this year. But when the office totalled this year’s student placements, he says, “We were almost exactly the same as we had been the year before, which may be described as the peak.” Jill Barr, director of career services at American University’s Washington College of Law, says, “If we saw fewer [offers], it was insignificantly fewer.” Even if the financial climate had been worse, law firm leaders say there are several reasons why their summer associate programs would remain vigorous. Most of this year’s summer associates were hired in the fall of 2001, and those who land permanent job offers won’t be on board until the fall of 2003. As a result, recruiting partners tend to take the long view when making summer program decisions. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to save money or cut expenses on your summer program,” says Howrey partner Edward Han. “It’s just too long a lag.” That lag can be even longer if incoming associates choose to clerk for a year after graduation. Robert Waldman, outgoing chair of Hogan & Hartson’s recruitment committee, calls this “the pipeline effect.” The firm has made standing offers to 17 law students who will be clerking for judges after graduation. To continue offering full-time positions to a high percentage of its summer associates, Waldman says, Hogan had to extend fewer invitations. “There’s an accumulation of offers,” he explains. “And you don’t want to have to take back offers.” The firm, which increased its summer classes from 36 to 65 between 1999 and 2001, will bring in 42 this summer, reflecting both the pipeline effect and higher acceptance rates. Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, in bringing in 16 summer associates — four fewer than in 2001 — was also considering the pipeline. The firm regularly has students who are doing joint degrees, evening programs, or clerkships. Whether firms extended fewer offers because they expected higher acceptance rates or because of outstanding associate job offers, this year’s summer associate downsizing was mostly a matter of adjusting, not cutting. A few changes are afoot, though. Howrey will extend its boot camp by a week and include four in-house lawyers from Howrey clients. “When we first announced this program we got some very favorable responses from clients, some of whom asked if we would accept some of their younger lawyers,” says Han. “It was tempting, but since the program was so experimental we didn’t have the nerve to do it.” This year, the four in-housers will join Howrey’s 36 other participants in what will be a five-week program. “It’s an invaluable client relationship-building opportunity,” says Han. Arent Fox will shorten its program from 12 weeks to 11 weeks. Amber Handman, attorney recruitment and development manager, says the change is not a cost-cutting measure, but is designed as a response to students’ desires to have a break before heading back to school in the fall. “We had found that by the 11th week, we had put together our programs, done our training, and given feedback,” she says. “By that 12th week, they were ready to go.”

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