Andrew P. Price, a partner in Norton Rose Fulbright in Houston. Andrew currently serves as the hiring partner responsible for attorney employment in the USA.
Andrew P. Price, a partner in Norton Rose Fulbright in Houston. Andrew currently serves as the hiring partner responsible for attorney employment in the USA. (John Everett)

This summer, fewer summer asso­ciate positions are available at large firms: There are 19 fewer jobs than the summer of 2013. That’s down 4 percent from last year. What prevented those numbers from being worse is that a handful of firms significantly boosted their summer associate ranks.

Norton Rose Fulbright is bringing in the largest class among Texas’ big firms, with 71 summer associates in the Lone Star State. That’s up 27 percent from last year’s class of 56. Houston partner Andrew Price, chairman of the firm’s U.S. employment committee, attributes the larger size to more interest from students in the firm, generated by the June 2013 combination of Fulbright & Jaworksi and Norton Rose.

“I think we were pleasantly surprised at how receptive the students were to the opportunity afforded to them by joining a global business,” Price said.

Despite its global nature, the firm draws heavily on its Texas roots: 59 percent of Norton Rose’s Texas class—42 out of 71 summer associates—are students at Texas law schools.

“We’ve been historically very successful at the Texas law schools,” Price said. “These numbers are very typical with our mix for the past several years, very Texas-heavy.”

Traditionally, trial firm McKool Smith has recruited summer associates from within Texas, but it has expanded its campus recruiting sites because the firm has opened out-of-state offices, said Laurie Fitzgerald of Austin, hiring principal for the firm. The firm’s Texas summer asso­ciate class of 14 is 56 percent larger than it was in 2013.

“We ended up with more people in Texas than we typically have because we interviewed at more schools,” Fitzgerald said. “Over the last five or six years we have opened California, D.C. and New York offices. So we thought that now that we have offices in these other places, it makes sense to interview at schools outside Texas.”

Along with Norton Rose, McKool Smith is one of four firms that increased their 2014 Texas summer associate class by more than 20 percent. The other two firms are Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and Baker & McKenzie. Greenberg Traurig also showed impressive growth by hiring three Texas summer associates for 2014, compared with zero in 2013.

With 17 summer associates, Akin Gump’s class is 55 percent larger than the 11 summer associates in 2013.

“We increased our class because we believe our clients’ business supported increased associates,” said Lisa Gallerano, hiring partner for the firm’s Dallas office, where summer associates will be working in the firm’s advocacy, transactions and intellectual property practices.

In the firm’s Houston office, summer associates will be working in energy transactions, litigation and intellectual property, said Houston hiring partner Phyllis Young.

“We have summer associates for each of our practice groups here in Houston, and that reflects the associates we will need in the fall of 2015,” Young said.

Baker & McKenzie upped its Texas summer associate count to 16, an increase of 46 percent when compared with 11 summer associates last year.

“I guess that reflects in many respects what’s happening here in Texas and our commitment as a firm to Texas, said Robert “Bobby” Albaral, hiring partner in Dallas. “We see Texas as an opportunity for growth as we look forward over the next several years.”

When talking about the larger size of the Texas class and the fact that the firm begins recruiting full-time associates two years ahead of time, Albaral said, “We’re looking down the road at what we see happening globally and regionally. We see those growth opportunities lasting for some years to come. This is just reflective of that.”

Eight of the large firms that participated in the survey increased the size of the summer associate class, 12 reduced the size and one stayed the same.

Bracewell & Giuliani decreased its class size by 24 percent, hiring 35 summer associates in Texas, compared with 46 last year. But a Texas class of 35 is the norm for the firm, said Kate Day of Houston, co-hiring partner for the firm. Last year’s class size was an anomaly because of an unusually high acceptance rate, she said.

“We weren’t trying to really scale back, we just went through the normal recruiting process and ended up with a class more in sync with our historical class size,” Day said.

The diversity of Bracewell’s Texas summer associate class is similar to that of the large firms as a group. Forty-eight percent of the summer associates at the 21 firms are women, and 23 percent are minorities. At Bracewell, women make up 46 percent and minorities 23 percent of the 2014 summer associate class.

“I think it’s representative of the firm, and I think that our clients are looking for diversity within their service providers,” Day said. “The more people from different backgrounds we can bring together, the better ideas we can come up with, and the better solutions we can find for problems.”