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It’s the work, stupid. This was the battle cry of summer associates at Philadelphia-based Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley — well, maybe except for the stupid part — that propelled the firm to a top showing in L magazine’s Summer Associate Survey. Blank Rome finished third out of 14 firms in Philadelphia offices and just came a fraction of a point from claiming the top spot when factoring in respondents from all offices. In Philadelphia, the firm received the highest grades among the 14 responding firms in interesting work while it tied with other firms for the top score in overall experience and training and guidance. Blank Rome was informed by the magazine, which is part of American Lawyer Media, that it had finished first nationally — where responses from all offices are included. As any other firm in that situation would do, the firm sent out recruiting materials to law students boasting about its top score. But just recently, L editors informed Blank Rome that it had actually finished second, just behind Tampa, Fla.’s Carlton Fields. Regardless of the snafu, the firm is obviously pleased with its showing. Blank Rome co-hiring partner Scott Cooper said the firm makes sure its summers receive quality work assignments. The firm’s partners ensure that work is waiting for the summers when they arrive and also insist that each student receive follow-up from the assigning attorney. Cooper added that the firm also maintains an assignment log, which is now computerized. Summers can surf through background on cases and assignment descriptions, volunteering for those that interest them. And he said the firm eliminates over-competition between summers by having managing partner Fred Blume tell them on their first day that the jobs are theirs to lose. “We always score well with this survey because we spend a lot of time on the program before they get here,” Cooper said. “We would have loved to finish first but it leaves us something to shoot for next year. Still, second place nationally is phenomenal considering all of the upgrades firms around the country have put into their programs.” Finishing first in the Philadelphia office category was Morgan Lewis, which also fared exceptionally well in its New York and Washington, D.C., offices. In Philadelphia, the firm received perfect scores for partner treatment, associate treatment, orientation, inclination to accept an offer and grading the firm as a workplace. Morgan Lewis finished first or shared first place in six of the nine total categories that were used to calculate the composite score. Morgan Lewis Philadelphia office hiring partner Coleen Meehan said that the firm improved its ranking by incorporating negative responses from summer associates from past years into making improvement for this past summer. All summer associates were invited to a three-day orientation program where they got to know the partners and fellow summers as well as familiarize themselves with the technology systems. Meehan said the firm also introduced a work product feedback committee, which evaluated summer associate work product within three days of receipt. The committee became a third layer of feedback in addition to the summer associate’s individual mentor and the assigning attorney. The effort paid off for the firm, which had 11 of 13 eligible summer associates accept offers. Another eligible summer associate asked not to be considered for an offer. Saul Ewing trailed only Carlton Fields and Blank Rome in the national statistics and finished second in the Philadelphia numbers. Locally, the firm received perfect scores for overall experience, partner treatment and atmosphere, and tied Blank Rome and Morgan Lewis when it comes to training and guidance. Stephen Aichele, Saul Ewing’s chairman, said the firm moved up from 51 nationally to No. 3 because “we did things better not differently.” Aichele said the firm tried to incorporate summer associates into all facets of the firm — having them sit in on departmental meetings and visit other offices. He added that the firm’s training goes beyond what students receive in law school. On the flip side, Drinker Biddle & Reath was panned by the five Philadelphia summer associates that filled out their surveys, finishing last among local offices due to last-place showings in overall experience, interesting work, training and guidance, and orientation. Drinker Biddle hiring partner William Clark said that he was surprised at the results but he does not think it was representative of the firm’s summer program or the experiences of its summer associates. He said that of the 13 2Ls in its Philadelphia office this past summer, the firm made offers to 11 of them and all but one either accepted or deferred acceptance while serving a judicial clerkship. “I’m not sure that we’ll do anything differently,” Clark said. “But we will pay attention to areas where we scored low so that we can assure the quality will be where it should be and our scores will be different next year.” Buchanan Ingersoll finished last out of 142 firms in the overall national rankings. Lori Lecker, the firm’s public relations manager, said that she believes its low score for interesting work resulted from “several huge projects for major corporate clients that had to be done,” which summer associates may have found tedious. But like Clark, Lecker was quick to add that the firm has a 100 percent acceptance rate in Philadelphia and 90 percent firmwide. In the overall national rankings, there was a major dropoff of local firm representation after Blank Rome’s and Saul Ewing’s respective second and third place rankings. Next was Duane Morris (29), Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll (46), Fox Rothschild (tied at 49), Morgan Lewis (55), Reed Smith and Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis (tied at 60), Dechert (96), Drinker Biddle (134), Cozen O’Connor (138) and Buchanan Ingersoll (142). Reed Smith will no doubt receive a shot in the arm next year from its merger with 220-attorney California firm Crosby Heafey Roach & May, which finished at No. 14 nationally. Morgan Lewis shot up the national rankings, to No. 55, compared with 123 last year. Similarly, Reed Smith (60 from 166) and Schnader Harrison (60 from 179) saw major improvement. The two firms with the largest downward trend were Cozen O’Connor (138 from 91) and Buchanan Ingersoll (142 from 99). The survey is conducted from late June to early August and is distributed by the firms’ recruiting professionals. To participate, a firm must have 10 eligible respondents firmwide. An eligible respondent must be a law student clerking at the firm through the summer who has already been on the job for three weeks. The survey drew responses from 4,192 summer associates at 192 firms — a 50.5 percent response rate. In all, 142 firms had enough responses to be included. The average score for nine quality-of-life questions — on a ranking system of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best — is used to determine a firm’s overall score. To determine scores for individual questions, the magazine averaged respondent’s answers on a citywide basis for the results by city chart and on a firmwide basis for the national rankings. There were other questions that did not count toward the composite scores but were used to provide a profile of associates nationwide, aid in tracking trends and add insight into a given firm’s score and the differences among its offices. Among those questions were two that dealt with how the summers viewed their firm and others in terms of prestige. Of the 10 Philadelphia-based firms on the list, Morgan Lewis received the highest prestige ranking from summer associates around the country, finishing 30 out of 142. Dechert was next at 32, with Ballard Spahr at 50, Drinker Biddle at 65, Blank Rome at 77 and Duane Morris at 97. Four firms did not receive rankings, meaning that they were not mentioned as being prestigious by summer associates at other firms: Cozen O’Connor, Fox Rothschild, Saul Ewing and Schnader Harrison. In terms of what the magazine calls self-esteem scores, Blank Rome summers had the best impression of its firm’s prestige in the marketplace. On the same 1 to 5 scale, Blank Rome summer associates gave their firm a 4.9 score, followed by Ballard Spahr at 4.8, Dechert at 4.4, Morgan Lewis at 4.3, Fox Rothschild at 4.2, Drinker Biddle and Duane Morris at 4.1, and Cozen O’Connor, Saul Ewing and Schnader Harrison at 4.0. In addition, associates at five of the 10 firms said they all had mentors, with all but one of the remaining firms finishing above 90 percent. The survey also asked if the associates felt their firms were sincere about diversity efforts. Responses to that question ranged from Ballard Spahr at 96 percent to Drinker Biddle and Duane Morris, both at 50 percent. And, save for Fox Rothschild, at least 90 percent of summer associates at each firm felt that they would receive offers for full-time employment. Fox Rothschild associates answered yes to that question at a 75 percent clip. Duane Morris appears to work its summer associates the hardest, just a shade under 51 hours per week, while Schnader Harrison summers reported the lowest average number at 42.1 hours per week.

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