Law firm recruitment stays solid

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) is reporting that law firm recruiting activity in 2018 remained robust. Indeed, offer rates coming out of summer porgrams reached an historic high. 

The findings come from NALP's recently released annual Perspectives on 2018 Law Student Recruiting report. On many other metrics, Big Law Recruiting volume and practices resembled those measured before the recession. 

That was the Great Recession, mind you, a highly disruptive one. 

Here's evidence: In 2018, there were, by some estimates, 1,000 fewer summer associate slots available compared to before the recession. However, dropping law school enrollment means there aren't as many students vying for those key positions. That means the competition among law firms "remains very keen," the report said. 

"Perhaps the most apt word to describe the most recent recruiting cycle is steady," the report said. "The data collected from NALP’s surveys of law schools and law firms at the end of the 2018 recruiting cycle document an industry that has had four very solid, very competitive, very similar years by most measures, with this new level-set following a period of bobbling regrowth that in turn followed the tremendous contraction in recruiting activity that came with the immediate aftermath of the recession."

NALP Executive Director James Leipold summarized the findings, saying, “After a period of great volatility following the recession marked first by a prolonged slowdown in law student recruiting and then a period of rapid escalation in recruiting, we have seen the recruiting market stabilize over the last four or five years."

In addition to surveying law schools and law firms about recruiting activities, NALP also surveyed 2L law students who interviewed with law firms for a summer 2019 position about their OCI experiences.

- Among the findings from the student survey are that office location is a major factor when students are deciding which firms to apply to summer positions. When making a final choice between competing offers, or even which callback invitations to accept, the people met during an interview are the primary factor in that decision-making.

Significant Findings:

- While there are still some large summer programs, most notably in offices in New York, there are an increasing number of small programs, and the single most common summer program class size for a law office was a class of just one person in 2018. Fully one-quarter of summer programs reported for summer 2018 consisted of one or two summer associates. As a point of comparison, in 2008 only 16 percent of summer programs consisted of one or two associates.

- The aggregate offer rate coming out of summer programs had been flat for three years at just about 95 percent, but in 2018 jumped to nearly 97 percent, an historic high.

- The acceptance rate on these offers had hovered between 84 percent and 86 percent for seven years in a row, but in 2018 was measured at 88 percent, also an historic high, and significantly higher than the pre-recession norm of overall acceptance rates of about 73 to 77 percent.

- Members of the Class of 2020 (who went through the OCI process in the summer and fall of 2018) experienced a robust market quite similar to that experienced by the previous three classes, and with significant competition for top talent. Across employers of all sizes, the median number of offers extended for summer associate positions has been 11 or 12 for the last four years.

“If there is a takeaway from the student surveys that were completed,” Leipold noted, “it is that who you send to campus really matters. At the end of the day, students report that the lawyers they met were extremely influential in students’ assessments of where to accept or reject offers of summer employment.”

The full Perspectives on 2018 Law Student Recruiting report details recruitment activity on campus and at job fairs in 2018; provides information on summer program characteristics; provides information on the outcomes of 2018 summer programs and of fall 2018 recruiting for both second-year summer associates and entry-level associates not previously employed by that employer; and provides selected findings from NALP’s student survey.

To read the full report, including its numerous data tables, go to