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Although the total number of summer associate positions for second-year law students in New Jersey has decreased over the past couple of years, along with the hoped-for subsequent offers of full-time employment after graduation, it appears that there are more opportunities for both than in 1995, when law firms began reporting hiring activity to the National Association for Law Placement. Since 1995, the landscape of New Jersey’s legal community has noticeably changed. Law firms headquartered in other states, which did not have a presence in New Jersey eight years ago, have since opened offices here, and several New Jersey-based firms have been acquired by or merged with out-of-state firms. According to the data maintained by NALP, whereas 17 New Jersey firms or offices reported their hiring activities to NALP in 1995, by 2002 that number had grown to 27. All 17 firms reporting in 1995 remain extant in 2003, although several were either acquired and changed their name, simply changed their name or moved to a new address. (Shanley Fisher is now Drinker Biddle & Shanley; Crummy, Del Deo is now Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione; and Norris McLaughlin & Marcus has moved from Bridgewater to Somerville.) RIDE THE WAVE During 1995-2001, New Jersey firms reporting to NALP experienced a substantial increase in the number of second-year law students hired as summer associates, as well as in the subsequent number of offers of full-time employment after graduation. In 1995, the 17 New Jersey firms reporting data hired 80 summer associates (second-year law students only) and made permanent offers to 75. By 2001, 24 New Jersey firms were reporting to NALP, and they reported hiring 140 second-year summer associates, and of those 140, 114 received post-graduation full-time offers. For 2002, according to NALP statistics available at the time of this writing, the 27 reporting firms predicted they would hire only 119 2L summer associates, and that they would make a total of 97 full-time offers. Of those 27 firms, the 17 firms reporting in 1995 alone predicted they would hire 103 summer associates and make 83 full-time offers. As the numbers show, the pace of summer associate and full-time associate hiring growth from 1995 to 2001 — during the economic boom of the last decade — was not expected to be sustained in 2002. In fact, it appears to have dropped substantially during 2002 and 2003. In 1995, the average number of summer associates was 4.71 for each firm, with full-time offers of 4.41 per firm for each of the 17 firms reporting to NALP. By 2001, the average for the 24 reporting firms had grown to 5.83 summer associates and 4.75 full-time offers per firm. (For comparison, in 2001, the original 17 firms from 1995 averaged 7.29 summer associates and 5.94 full-time offers per firm.) Based on hiring predictions reported to NALP for 2002, which are the most current statistics available at this time, the average number of summer associates dropped to 4.41 per firm and full-time offers to 3.59. For the original 17 New Jersey firms, the anticipated average number of summer associates fell to 6.06 and full-time offers to 4.88. PER-FIRM NUMBERS CONTINUE FREE FALL Presently, the NALP data for 2003 are very sketchy, since most firms had not provided their predicted summer and full-time hiring for the 2002-2003 edition of the NALP Directory of Legal Employers, which is the most current edition of the directory. However, based on the percentage of full-time offers made to 2L summer associates in 2002, and assuming an overall reduction in hiring of 10 to 15 percent — which is approximately the overall reduction in hiring expected at firms in this region — a somewhat gloomy picture emerges that reveals a continuing reduction in overall summer and full-time hiring. Assuming a 10 percent reduction in hiring, the 27 NALP firms have hired or will hire 107 2L summer associates for 2003, or an average of 3.96 per firm. In 2002, full-time offers were made to 81 percent of all 2L summer associates. Applying this same full-time hiring practice in 2003, the 27 firms can be expected to make 87 full-time offers, or 3.22 offers per firm. If hiring in 2003 falls by as much as 15 percent below estimated hiring for 2002, the 27 firms can be expected to hire 101 2L summer associates, which averages out to 3.74 per firm. Eighty-two full-time offers can be expected, or 3.04 per firm, which is an all-time average low since firms began reporting hiring data to NALP in 1995. Again taking the 17 original reporting firms as a group, and assuming a 10 percent reduction in hiring from 2002 and an 81 percent ratio of full-time offers to summer associate positions, 92 2L summer associates will be hired for 2003 and 74 will receive full-time post-graduation offers, with per firm averages of 5.41 and 4.35, respectively. Assuming a 15 percent reduction in hiring from 2002, 87 summer associate positions would be filled by second-year law students, yielding 5.12 positions per firm, with 70 full-time offers expected, or an average of 4.12 offers per firm. ABSOLUTE NUMBERS HANG TOUGH Admittedly, these predictions of 2003 hiring activity are merely estimates, calculated based on certain assumptions of past hiring results and anecdotal reports of current trends. Nevertheless, assuming they are reasonably accurate and reflective of the current legal employment market, it appears that summer associate hiring and full-time offers, per firm, are below 1995 levels. The good news is that the absolute number of summer associate positions available in New Jersey at the NALP firms should be greater than eight years ago. Whether future hiring activity at individual firms will soon return to the levels of two or three years ago may ultimately depend on when the economy finally shakes free of the lingering recession, which is very difficult to predict. Stephen M. Ball is director of career services at Rutgers School of Law-Camden.

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