On the eve of the fall recruitment season, law school placement directors were expecting to see slight improvement over the prior year.
“Word on the street from career service offices is that fall recruiting remains fairly flat and resembles last year — numbers are not down, but they’re not seeing big visual jumps either,” said James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement.
NALP’s annual report on law firm recruiting indicated that last year 39 percent of American Bar Association accredited schools reported an increase of 5 percent or more in the number of employers on campus. About 29 percent reported consistent numbers and almost one-third reported a decrease of 5 percent or more.
But some schools are reporting bigger gains.
Susan Guindi, assistant dean for career planning at University of Michigan Law School, said they have seen a significant improvement in employer participation.
“It looks lot better this year,” she said. “We’ve got almost 20 percent more employers. The increase might be because last year firms only recruited for one of their offices, where as this year up to three of their offices are interviewing students.”
She said some of the reasons for progress include an improving economy and reaching out to different employers.
Other good news is that the offer rate — the percent of employers who offer summer associates a full-time position — is going up. For the class of 2012 graduates, who were summer associates in 2011, the offer rate rose four percentage points, to 91.4 percent. It had been as low as 69.2 percent in 2009.
But schools are still worried about the long-term outlook for hiring by the nation’s largest law firms.
“I think there was an increase last year [in big firm hiring], and it’s questionable whether that will continue to increase much this year based on the facts that the firms aren’t increasing their sizes of the summer classes,” said Michael Keller, who is the assistant dean of career and professional development at Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington.
Keller and Leipold both said the smaller class sizes are a noticeable trend likely to continue in the future.
“There are questions as to the long-term health of the [On Campus Interview process] simply because organizations are able to recruit in so many other ways, which I don’t think would be a bad thing in the long run,” Keller said. “I think it would be a healthy thing and maybe level the playing field all the way across the board.”
Indiana University—Bloomington placed 13.8 percent of its 2011 graduates at one of the nation’s largest law firms — firms that employ 101 or more attorneys. That figure ranked the school 28th out of 199 ABA-accredited schools.
Columbia Law School ranked first with 61.4 percent of its class employed at firms with 101 or more attorneys. University of Michigan was 13th on the list with 34 percent.