Law firms are still employing law students, but most working from home

Law firms have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by transitioning their summer programs to virtual or hybrid models, giving law students the opportunity to work on legal matters from their homes. 

The National Association for Law Placement conducted two short surveys in May to determine the impacts of COVID-19 on U.S. legal employers, law schools, and law students. It found that 86% of law firm offices were moving forward with their summer programs, but that 64% would be shorter — 5 to 6 weeks instead of 10. 

The majority of offices, 55%, were planning for virtual programs, with 40% intending to host a hybrid model, a combination of in-person and virtual. Virtual programs were most popular in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions where deaths from the pandemic have been far higher. 

For those 2020 summer programs that will be fully or partially remote, nearly half, 47%, of offices have not yet determined the anticipated number of hours per week that summer associates will work during the remote portion of the program. For those that have decided, three-quarters, 75%, anticipate that summer associates will work 31 to 40 hours per week remotely. 

For offices that canceled their 2020 summer programs, 86% reported they made full-time offers to at least some second-year students who were originally going to summer at the office.

Overall, 11% of offices reported furloughs or layoffs for at least some of their talent, recruiting, professional development, or diversity and inclusion staff. 

Law schools have also adjusted their plans. More than half, 51%, have established on-campus interview (OCI) dates for the Class of 2022, with 85% changing the dates from prior years. Most OCI dates typically take place in late July and August. For this year, 71% will start in January and 21% in February. 

Nearly all schools, 95%, reported that they provided students with additional opportunities to obtain practical skills due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with research opportunities being the most frequently reported at 89%.