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For what it may be worth, a coast-to-coast survey of summer associate programs conducted by the National Association of Law Placement and released last week finds that by and large, the programs are considered valuable training experiences. “This report is the first of its kind to document the influences and outcomes of summer programs,” according to an introduction written by Paula A. Patton, chief executive officer and president of the NALP Foundation, the organization’s research arm. She added, “[The report] offers a valuable resource for law school career service administrators, legal employers and students alike.” Bristling with numerical charts but modest on conclusions, the 215-page report provides a snapshot of sorts of last year’s crop of summer associates and interns and their employers — in terms of desires and expectations on both sides of the aisle. Unsurprisingly, a thumping majority of students — some of whom were paid very good salaries at large firms for their 10-12 weeks’ duty — felt the experience was worthwhile. So, too, did the employer group, which in part funded the research. Likewise unremarkable was the uniformity of summer programs at most private firms: receptions coming and going, tours and orientation periods, tasks supervised by senior associates, some manner of feedback, and a menu of social outings. Median compensation for summer associates of 2002 was $1,775 per week, according to the report, ranging from $1,300 to $2,400. Only a handful of employers, the report said, extended health or other benefits to summers. Perhaps the report’s most surprising statistic was the attitudinal difference between male and female law students when asked to rate the quantity and quality of their work assignments as “positive” or “neutral” or “negative.” Of male respondents, 92 percent registered a positive response. Females offered a rating of 82 percent positive. When asked the meaning of such a gender gap, particularly in a time when slightly more than half of the country’s law students are women, Patton said in a telephone interview, “I think it’s significant in terms of a finding or realization, but I’m not sure what it means. That’s the shortfall of any study. You get incredible empirical data, but you don’t know why.” Neither could James Castro-Blanco, manager of professional development and training at Shearman & Sterling, venture a meaning. “I don’t know if that indicates anything other than the fact that there is still a preponderance of male partners and male senior associates at law firms,” said Castro-Blanco, who also teaches a trial advocacy course at St. John’s University School of Law. “The junior levels of the profession are pretty even.” Joan A. King of Brooklyn Law School was also puzzled. “We rely on our students to let us know if something is wrong, but we never get that,” said King, director of her school’s career center. “I’m here almost 12 years and I don’t think I’ve had a student ever say they were dissatisfied.” Another of the NALP survey findings was this: “Associates who worked for smaller employers were more likely than those who worked for larger employers to report that they valued their training experience.” “We can make theories about that,” said Patton. “Maybe they work them harder. I would assume that in a small firm, with a very small class — maybe one or two or three summer associates — that they get really involved, and hands-on. They go to court for this and that. For young students, that’s exciting.” TRAINING AREAS Overall, last year’s summer associates said law firm research was most important (60.2 percent) when asked to rank specific training areas. Close behind were exposure to substantive legal practice and writing skills — 59.4 percent and 58.8 percent, respectively. Mock trials and mock transactions were at the bottom of the list — at 7 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively. Daniel G. Fish, name partner in the elder law boutique firm Freedman and Fish, understands why research ranked so highly. “The first time I researched something outside law school, where it wasn’t simply academic — that was an eye-opener,” said Fish, whose firm usually employs one summer associate per season. “It was the first time I actually felt like a lawyer.” Similarly, Stephen M. Aronson, attorney recruitment coordinator for the New York Human Resources Administration, spoke of the importance of research outside the classroom. Besides the routine online computer research, said Aronson, the summer interns at his agency must conduct interviews. “They have to go to other attorneys,” he said, “and to non-attorneys to complete their research on a live project.” Like Aronson’s public law agency, summers at the Legal Aid Society of New York do not enjoy anything near the median salary determined by the NALP report. The six to 10 summers at the city’s Human Resources Administration are paid roughly $12 per hour. At Legal Aid, “Every one of our summer people have their own scholarships,” said David W. Weschler, attorney-in-charge of the community law offices for Legal Aid’s volunteer division. “So for us it’s not only finding great people, but people who come with their own checks. “Our people don’t want to go to big firms and do research,” he added. “They like client contact, front-line work in the community on real problems, and working closely with staff mentors.” Survey forms were sent by NALP to 1,100 employers — a mix of large, medium and small firms, as well as public law agencies. Forms also went to 87 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association. According to Patton, the survey results were based on the analysis of “useable data” culled from 304 employer respondents and “just under 500″ students. The report does not name employers whose responses were analyzed. Student response was “voluntary and required return of the completed survey by U.S. mail with students providing the postage,” according to the report. In certain circumstances, demographics were admittedly unrepresentative. By the report’s own account, for instance, “[L]aw firms in the northeast may be somewhat under-represented, as 16.9 percent of the responses, and those in the southeast may be somewhat over-represented, with 37.8 percent of the responses. In some cases, adequate data was available to enable reporting of data by city or state, but on a limited basis.” Three-quarters (74.3 percent) of jobs taken by summers in 2002 were at law firms, with 40.5 percent of them employed at firms of 251 attorneys or more, 28 percent at firms of 51-250 attorneys, and 31.4 percent at small firms of 50 attorneys or fewer. The remaining student participants worked at government agencies (15.9 percent), public interest law groups (5.6 percent), for in-house counsel (2.8 percent), and 1.4 percent at what the report termed “‘other’ or unknown employers.” Students are identified as male or female, “minorities” or “non-minorities.” The latter group, Patton explained in a telephone interview, is “mostly white.” When contacted for comment on the NALP survey, most campus, law firm and public agency officials expressed uncertainty about the significance of the report — titled “The Significance of Summer Programs.” “I’m not really sure what to make of it,” said Suzanne Ryan, manager of professional recruiting at Shearman & Sterling, where a typical summer class numbers about 215. “Summer associates are very guarded.”

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