First-year associate hiring in Pennsylvania and across the country saw increases in 2013, but that might be temporary if summer associate hiring this year is any indication.

According to The Legal's annual Pennsylvania First-Year Associates Survey, law firms increased their first-year classes in Pennsylvania offices by 12.3 percent between 2012 and 2013. First-year classes across all the offices of the survey respondents grew 2.2 percent, the survey showed.

Increases turned to declines, however, when it came to summer associate hiring. Of the respondents that had summer associate programs in Pennsylvania, there was a 9.8 percent drop in the number of summer hires between the 2012 and 2013 programs. That means the pool for first-year associates in 2014 is likely to be smaller unless firms look to less traditional avenues for first-year hiring.

The summer associate trend in Pennsylvania models what is happening nationally. According to a recent survey by Legal affiliate The American Lawyer, the average summer class size for 2013 was down 3.4 percent across the country.

Pennsylvania First-Years

Of the 20 respondents who brought on first-year associates in their Pennsylvania offices this year, nine grew their programs from 2012, six employed the same number as last year and five decreased the size of their first-year classes.

Dechert provided the largest jump in first-year class size in Pennsylvania, growing from 10 first-years in 2012 to 20 in 2013. Firmwide, Dechert's first-year class grew from 67 in 2012 to 75 this year. But what Dechert added in first-years in 2013, it took away in summer associates. The firm employed 11 summer associates in 2013 compared to the 21 it had on board in 2012.

In terms of Pennsylvania first-year associate classes, Dechert had the largest class size, followed by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius at 17 first-years and Pepper Hamilton at 15. Morgan Lewis and Pepper were at or close to their class sizes from 2012.

Fox Rothschild and Saul Ewing each cut their Pennsylvania first-year classes in half between 2012 and 2013. Fox Rothschild went from eight to four first-years and Saul Ewing went from six to three.

The 20 respondents with first-years in Pennsylvania hired a total of 137 first-year associates in 2013. That is a 12.3 percent rise from the 122 that were hired by those firms in 2012.

There were 22 responding firms that had first-years in at least some offices, albeit sometimes not in Pennsylvania. Those firms hired a total of 412 first-year associates in 2013, up 2.2 percent from the 403 first-years they hired last year. It was a relatively mixed bag in terms of firms that grew or shrunk their programs, with nine increasing first-year classes firmwide, seven decreasing and six hiring the same number as they did in 2012.

The majority of the 19 respondents with summer associates in Pennsylvania shrunk their summer programs this year. In 2013, those 19 firms hired 119 summer associates. That is a 9.8 percent drop from the 132 summers those firms hired in 2012.

Aside from Dechert, nine other firms decreased their summer programs, with four not hiring any summer associates in Pennsylvania this year.

The Payout

For the overwhelming majority of firms, starting salaries for first-year associates remained the same year over year. The salaries generally ranged from $110,000 to $145,000, with the bulk of firms closer to the higher end of that range. Goldberg, Miller & Rubin was a bit of an outlier given the 17-lawyer firm's size compared to other, much larger respondents. It pays its first-year associates $62,500.

Only four firms made any changes to their first-year compensation models between 2012 and 2013. Ballard Spahr increased its starting salary from $125,000 to $135,000 and Pepper raised its starting pay from $135,000 to $140,000. Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel decreased its starting salary from $125,000 to $115,000, according to the survey.

For the past few years, Drinker Biddle & Reath has paid two different salaries to its first-years. The firm paid $105,000 to first-year associates during a four-month training program at the start of the year. The salary was then bumped up to $140,000 after those four months.

Starting this year, Drinker Biddle is paying $140,000 for the entire year, even during the training program.


The majority of the first-year associates — about 52.6 percent — are men. That is a closer gap than the 56 percent of first-years in 2012 who were men.

The number of racially and ethnically diverse attorneys continues to rise among the state's first-year associate ranks, according to the last few years of data.

In 2011, minorities comprised 19.4 percent of first-year associates in Pennsylvania. In 2012, that figure inched up to 19.9 percent and this year 20.4 percent of first-year associates in the state are minorities.

Black attorneys make up the largest minority group among first-year associates at 10.2 percent. Latinos comprise 3.6 percent of the first-year associate pool, Asian-Americans make up 5.8 percent and less than 1 percent of first-year associates are classified as an "other" minority.

Law Schools

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pennsylvania firms hire the bulk of their first-year associates from Pennsylvania-area law schools.

As is often the case, Temple University's Beasley School of Law has the highest representation of graduates at area law firms, with 28 of the first-year associates having graduated from the school. There are 19 University of Pennsylvania Law School graduates among the respondents' first-year classes, 17 are from Villanova University School of Law, nine are from Rutgers School of Law-Camden, four graduated from Widener University School of Law, and Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law and Penn State Dickinson School of Law each have three graduates represented among the responding firms' first-year classes.

Gina Passarella can be contacted at 215-557-2494 or at Follow her on Twitter @GPassarellaTLI. •