Law firm fall recruitment better, but still largely flat

Entry-level recruitment at the nation’s largest law firms continues to be flat, according to a new report by National Association for Law Placement.

“We have seen some bobbling in recruiting volumes this past fall with some numbers that point to increased recruiting volumes and some that suggest decreased volume,” said James Leipold, Executive Director of the NALP. “In any event, most of the markers that we track have more or less flat-lined for the last several years.”

Law firm on-campus recruitment efforts took a tumble in 2008, with the onset of the recession. The average summer associate class for a law firm dropped from 13 in 2007 to a low of 8 by 2010. It has since rebounded to 11. The percent of summer associates who received full-time employment offers dropped from 92.8 percent in 2007 to a low of 69.3 percent in 2009. It has since rebounded to 91.6 percent in 2013.

Anecdotally, law firms report an increase in competition for the best students. While law firms made an average of 39 offers a year in 2007 to second-year law students, that number dropped to a low of 16 in 2009. But the average has since rebounded to 27 offers per year, with a 35.4 percent acceptance rate.

The report indicated that in 2013, law schools and law firms reported both increasing and decreasing recruiting activity. While geographic difference did occur, national aggregate numbers show that recruiting volumes continue to remain unchanged since the recession in 2008.

“At the end of 2013, the sense in the market seemed to be continued flat to declining volume in demand for legal services, with continued downward pressure on the costs for providing those services and a realization rate that continues to slip,” Leipold said. “There have also been predictions that there will be further stratification in the market, so one thing we may be seeing in the numbers is that some firms are growing their summer programs while others are reining in class size or leaving it flat.”

The report, Perspectives on Fall Student Recruiting, is an annual report based on surveys of fall recruitment activity provided by 123 law schools and more than 400 law firms in the United States.