An impressive 95 percent of law students who spent last summer clerking at a law firm received an offer to work full-time at the firm after graduation.
The offer rate for 2015 law firm summer associates nationwide is the highest in more than a decade—according to the latest firm hiring data from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).
Speaking at an annual summit for law firm recruiters and law school career services personnel Thursday at New York University School of Law, NALP executive director James Leipold joked that only the summer associates who threw up on someone during their time with the firm didn’t get job offers.
Historically high job offer rates were just one of several bright points in the current entry-level law firm hiring market, according to NALP.
“This is, since the recession, the most robust job growth we’ve seen,” Leipold said of last fall’s summer-associate recruiting and new associate hiring cycle.
The 95 percent offer rate was up from 93 percent in 2014, and a marked increase from the low of 69 percent in 2009.
Leipold noted that with first-year law school enrollment having fallen by more than 15,000 nationwide over the past five years, law firms are seeing more competition for the top candidates simply because schools are producing fewer graduates.
The average size of law firm summer-associate programs recovered to prerecession levels in 2015. On average, firms hosted 13 summer associates—the same as in 2008, the last year before they drastically cut down such programs in response to the economic crash. The average class size had plummeted to eight by 2010, but has steadily crept up since 2012.
James Leipold.Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ
Still, Leipold cautioned that summer-associate programs at the largest firm haven’t returned to their large prerecession sizes. For example, offices of firms with 700 or more lawyers extended a median of 20 summer-associate offers last fall, compared to 30 in 2007. “I don’t think we’re going all the way back to 30,” Leipold said. Overall, 59 percent of law firms reported making more summer-associate offers than the previous year, while 30 percent said they extended fewer offers.
Among students who received callback interviews with firms last fall, 56 percent were offered summer-associate jobs. That’s the highest rate since 2007. But because more offers were on the table, the acceptance rate dipped slightly to 32 percent from 33 percent in 2014.
On-campus recruiting activity also picked up slightly in 2015, according to NALP. Nearly a third of law firms reported recruiting at more law campuses than the previous year, while 43 percent said they made no changes in the number of schools they visited. A quarter of firms said they visited fewer campuses last fall.
Similarly, 36 percent of law schools said they had a five percent or larger increase in the number of firms attending their on-campus interview process in 2015. Another 43 percent saw no change, while 21 percent said fewer firms came on campus to recruit last fall.