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There are more summer associates working at Texas’ largest firms this summer — the first upward swing in summer associate hiring in three years. Twenty-two of Texas’ 25 largest firms provided information for Texas Lawyer‘s 2004 Summer Associates Survey. The participating firms hired 914 summer associates, an increase of 16 summer associates, or a 2 percent increase, compared with the 898 associates the same firms brought in during the summer of 2003. Weekly salaries held steady, ranging from $1,450 at Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons to $2,300 at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, with most of the firms paying $2,100 weekly. Thirteen firms report increased summer hires, seven report fewer and two of the responding firms report hiring the same number of summer associates as last year. “We’re in the midst of having an extremely good year,” says Wayne Risoli, managing shareholder for Houston-based Chamberlain Hrdlicka White Williams & Martin, explaining why the firm has more summer associates this year than in 2003. The 96-lawyer firm is employing 11 summer associates in its Houston office, compared with seven last year. The firm offers two six-week summer sessions, Risoli says. Summer associates’ tasks include preparing for depositions, supporting motions and helping with due diligence — activities that will give them a feel for life as a first-year associate with the firm, he says. It’s difficult to predict accurately how many summer associates will accept the firm’s offer of full-time employment, he says. The firm made 14 full-time offers last year, expecting 10 acceptances, he says. Even though 12 associates accepted Chamberlain Hrdlicka’s offers, the firm is bringing in more summer associates this year in anticipation of first-year associate needs in 2005, he says. “Our litigation section is expanding, our labor and employment section is expanding, and our corporate and securities section is expanding as well,” Risoli says. Angela Fontana, a recruiting partner in the Dallas office of Weil Gotshal & Manges, says the firm offers summer associates more flexibility than some other large firms by allowing them to arrive for their summer sessions when it best fits their schedules. “If they’re trying to take a class, or clerk at other firms, that’s OK with us,” Fontana says. “We do split it up and allow them to come throughout the summer.” The 1,146-lawyer firm has 119 lawyers in Texas. Weil Gotshal hired 28 Texas summer associates this year, 10 more than last summer. “They graduate in 2005 and arrive in the fall of 2005, but some do clerkships and so don’t arrive [as a full-time associate] until 2006,” Fontana says. “We looked at our projected growth, what we’ll need in terms of acceptances, how many will accept and how many will arrive.” The firm is paying its summer associates $2,300 weekly, the same salary it paid in 2003. “Our salary doesn’t bear a relation to a first-year [associate's] salary,” Fontana says. “It’s what we think is the market salary for summer associates.” Houston-based Vinson & Elkins switched to a first-half-only summer session in 2003 to improve acceptance rates among summer associates, says Robert C. Walters, a member of the firm’s management committee and co-administrative partner of its Dallas office. V&E, which has 733 attorneys firmwide, requires summer associates to spend time at the firm during the first 10 weeks of the summer, he says. “It tends to cause students to make their really hard decisions on the front end when they choose their clerkships,” Walters says. V&E is bringing in 90 summer associates this year, slightly fewer than the 95 the firm employed in the summer of 2003. “The advantage to us is that we know the students are really seriously interested in us,” Walters says. “The consequence is that the acceptance rate goes up substantially.” Like 13 other firms responding to the survey, V&E is paying summer associates $2,100 per week. Walters says the amount, which is the same as the salary paid to last year’s summer associates, is pro-rated based on the salary paid to first-year full-time associates. Walters says V&E allows summer associates to get involved in some of the firm’s pro bono work, such as the firm’s association with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, a nonprofit organization that specializes in representing people fighting illegal discrimination. “We try to give [summer associates] a crystal-clear idea of who we are, what kind of firm we are, what kind of self image we have,” he says. “It’s critically important that they know those things, so they can make the right decision about what’s right for them.” NOT SO MUCH Summer associates with Dallas-based Winstead Sechrest & Minick begin their clerkships at a three-day, off-site retreat, says Michael Alessio, hiring shareholder of the 314-lawyer firm. Typically, the hiring partner from each office and a few members of the recruiting committee also will attend the retreat, which was held this year at the Four Seasons Resort and Club at Las Colinas in Irving. The retreat includes team-building events, he says. “It’s a big expense but we have found it has helped drive our acceptance rate up because the clerks tend to recruit each other,” Alessio says. As a result of improving acceptance rates — this is the firm’s fourth year offering the retreat — Winstead hired 25 summer associates this year, 14 fewer than the 39 employed last summer. “The retreat is to get the clerks bonded together,” he says. “That’s their indoctrination to our culture of teamwork.” Winstead has one summer session during the first half of the summer, Alessio says. “Our clerks stay for a minimum of six weeks and a maximum of eight weeks, barring any special circumstances which are considered on a case-by-case basis,” he says. Higher acceptance rates also led to fewer summer associates this year at Dallas-based Strasburger & Price, says Mark Scudder, one of the firm’s hiring partners. “We anticipate making a permanent offer to everyone we bring into the office as a summer associate,” Scudder says. Strasburger brought in 19 summer associates this year, 14 fewer than the 33 summer associates the firm used in 2003. The firm offers a session that averages six weeks during the first half of the summer, Scudder says. Anticipating the 200-lawyer firm’s needs one to two years down the road is an inexact science, he says. “We try to make the best estimate on how many different associates will accept,” Scudder says. “We’ve had a fairly successful rate over the last few years, so the cutback is a reflection of that more than anything else.” M. Lawrence Hicks Jr., chairman of the recruiting committee at Dallas-based Thompson & Knight, cites two reasons for the firm’s decreased need for summer associates. One is that several of the firm’s 2002 summer associates who were offered full-time positions with Thompson & Knight accepted judicial clerkships for 2003-2004, and will be joining the firm as full-time associates in the fall of 2004, Hicks says. Consequently, several of the firm’s 2004 first-year associate slots are already committed. Second, the 369-lawyer firm has decided to decrease the size of its summer associate class and therefore has the ability to offer full-time positions to all summer participants. This year Thompson & Knight hired 37 summer associates, 17 fewer than last summer’s 54. Summer associates in the firm’s Dallas office generally rotate through two practice areas, spending three weeks with each area, Hicks says. “So they actually move to different offices on different floors at the summer midpoint,” he says. The summer associates spend six to seven weeks at the firm, either during the first or second half of the summer, he says. The goal is to give the summer hires the same projects handled by first-year associates, while keeping in mind that summer recruiting involves a social component, Hicks says. “Instead of working till 8 p.m. on your project, they’re out playing on the firm’s softball team,” he says. “We want them to take advantage of that [social opportunities] as much as they can. We’re trying to show them that the particular city is a great place to live. So many times they are making choices between cities and between firms.” Like all the firms mentioned above, Dallas-based Haynes and Boone typically recruits on the same law school campuses each year for summer associates, but does not limit its summer hires to those schools. “We will interview and hire from schools, even if we don’t go on the school’s campus to recruit,” says hiring partner Kathleen Beasley. The 443-lawyer firm considers students’ intangible characteristics such as relevant work experience and unique educational backgrounds in addition to the obvious grade credentials, she says. Haynes and Boone is employing 65 summer associates in 2004, 13 fewer than the number hired last year. Summer associates typically stay six to eight weeks, either during the first or the second half of the summer, Beasley says. “Over the last few years we’ve seen a steadily increasing acceptance rate among clerks we make permanent offers to,” Beasley says. “So we need fewer clerks to fill our hiring needs. Maybe we’re doing a better job of communicating.”

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