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San Francisco Bay Area summer associate programs barely had time to wind down before law firm recruiters hit the road again to audition fresh talent. Law schools began staging job fairs for firms in mid-August when their first-years had just arrived on campus. And partners have been out in force to talk to potential summer associates. Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, for example, is still awaiting a decision from 2003 summer associates who received job offers. But that hasn’t slowed the firm’s hunt for next year’s class. “We’re doing on-campus interviews right now,” partner Richard Yankwich said. “It keeps you young to be dealing with the young people.” Gray Cary hosted 22 second-year law students over the summer and made 19 offers, Yankwich said. Yankwich, who has played a role in his firm’s recruiting efforts since 1984, said Gray Cary has been ratcheting down the number of recruits it takes on each summer from the recruiting levels during the Internet boom. The firm had 74 summer associates in 2000. “We try to make sure we don’t have more people in the program than we have slots to fill,” Yankwich said, “and we feel pretty matched up this year.” Most Silicon Valley firms have shrunk their summer classes over the last two years. Cooley Godward, for example, sponsored 65 summer associates in 2001 and 44 this year. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati brought in 72 summer associates in 2001, but this year kept that number to 32. Wilson Sonsini made offers to all of its 2003 summer associates, and Cooley Godward made offers to all but one of its 44 summers, according to the firms. Like Gray Cary, both firms are back on campus looking to hook a new crop. “We’re heavily into fall recruiting,” Cooley Godward partner Christopher Sundermeier said. “It’s getting earlier and earlier.” Sundermeier said he has a theory about why recruiting season starts so soon and it harkens back to his law school days. “It may be that fall recruiting is a big distraction from a student’s studies, and the school wants to get it done early,” Sundermeier said. “I know when I was a second-year your primary focus was on getting a job.”

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