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This past summer, as every summer, law students nationwide temporarily abandoned their campuses and classrooms to join practicing lawyers in summer programs. For six to 12 weeks, students rehearsed being lawyers as they undertook legal work assignments under the watchful supervision of talented attorneys and administrators in many types of organizations. A new research report published earlier this year by the NALP Foundation, “The Significance of Summer Programs,” documents the influences and outcomes of summer programs. The report features the experiences of more than 300 legal employers who invested in the production and management of summer programs. It also provides measures and comparisons of the ways in which employers implement programs and activities to support their strategic recruitment and talent-selection processes. A separate study of a diverse group of 500 students, most of whom worked for law firms, provided feedback on their experiences last summer. The report concludes that summer programs remain a highly significant endeavor for both students and employers. Students work as summer associates for several very specific reasons: to acquire credentials, to apply classroom theory to legal practice, to develop their professional networks within the legal community, and to earn income to offset the cost of law school tuition and living expenses. And many are hoping to be invited to join their summer employers in a more permanent relationship after graduation. Some students are employed by prestigious, brand-name organizations with global influence, while other summer associates are apprenticing with small employers known best to their clients and local community. Programs are designed to provide a venue for assessing the talent and potential of a new class of prospective associates, to serve as a marketing and public relations vehicle, and to fulfill firms’ entry-level manpower needs. Every employer hosting summer associates has dedicated unmeasured resources — both human and financial — that, hopefully, will generate a return on investment. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS Among many other topics, the foundation study explored the degree to which employers realized their hiring goals for 2002. As a “pipeline” for intake of new legal talent, the summer program raises expectations regarding its “yield.” Most employers reported very high expectations for their recruitment yield — calculated by comparing the number of offers extended to the number of acceptances received. Nearly three-quarters (71.5 percent) of employers surveyed reported that for their summer programs to be considered a success, they expected an acceptance rate of at least 75 percent. About one-third (31.3 percent) reported that an acceptance rate of 90 percent or higher was considered successful. The data show that employer expectations are not always met. About one-quarter of the employers (27.5 percent) reported acceptance rates from 2001 summer associates below 75 percent, with a smaller number (10 percent) reporting acceptance rates below 50 percent. Interestingly, the acceptance rate for smaller programs (10 or fewer) was much higher than that for larger programs. What is the “right” yield? If an employer’s acceptance rate exceeds what was expected or wanted, the organization may be in the untenable position of being successful but “oversubscribed.” Alternatively, employers with lower than desired yields will have to re-enter the recruiting market in the spring to fill their anticipated entry-level needs. THE STUDENTS’ VIEW The data from students underscores the challenge employers face in meeting ambitious acceptance rates and predicting yields. Only 58.7 percent of students indicated that they would accept an offer from their 2002 summer employer, with about one in five (19.5 percent) reporting that they would not accept their offers and a similar number (21.7 percent) reporting being uncertain. Overall, men were somewhat more likely to report that they would accept an offer of employment than were women. According to these answers, firms with 101 to 250 lawyers came the closest to their desired acceptance rate. These figures were somewhat striking given the general malaise of the 2002 legal hiring market. The economic downturn was not reflected in student responses to the degree that might have been expected. The relatively low acceptance rate reported by students suggests that they were confident that they would have other, more attractive offers — and that summer programs may not be effective recruitment tools in some very seminal ways. Additionally, fewer than one in 10 students reported that their summer job experiences would be one of the top five influences on their post-graduate job choice. The vast majority of students rated summer programs well below other factors — salary and benefits, the opportunity to make a difference, professional development opportunities, and flexible work options — when it comes to making this decision. WHAT FIRMS CAN DO The NALP study revealed a significant gap between the expectations employers have for summer programs and the influence these programs have on student job choice. To realize better recruitment results, employers may want to consider initiatives that refocus their summer programs. If a firm has specific goals for its summer program and pursues those goals with a clear understanding of what motivates and is important to students, it will better meet student expectations and possibly improve acceptance rates. Redefining the purpose of the program has the potential to: � More accurately identify the specific characteristics sought in entry-level recruits; � Develop consensus on the definition of “success” in relation to acceptances; and � More effectively and equitably assess the skills of summer associates and their potential as lawyers. If principals and stakeholders in the organization don’t currently agree on what constitutes a successful program, that should be the immediate goal. Defining the measure(s) of success is a fundamental element of developing a recruitment strategy — that is, deciding how to select summer associates and, ultimately, who should receive offers of employment. Moreover, when results reveal that goals are being met, there may be greater broad-based support for the program. This support translates into budget allocations and, perhaps more important, may increase participation by more lawyers. No venue for student-employer interaction has the same potential as summer programs to introduce future lawyers to the world of practicing lawyers and introduce established lawyers to their future colleagues. Summer programs allow employers and lawyers-to-be to take a measure of each other before embarking on a long-term relationship. Summer programs are essential for employers who believe in the long-term benefits of recruiting entry-level attorneys — and summer work is an essential learning experience for law students as they chart their career paths. With new definition and focus, summer programs can better meet the expectations of both employers and students. Paula A. Patton is CEO/president of the NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education. The 216-page report, “The Significance of Summer Programs — Legal Employers and Law Students Report,” is available by calling (202) 533-2002 or going to www.nalpfoundation.org.

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