American Lawyer has released its annual summer associate survey. Not surprisingly, summer associates were generally terrified:
“The economic times suck,” one clerk at New York’s Skadden, Arps, Meagher, Slate & Flom wrote bluntly in response to our most recent summer associates survey. “The firm can’t change that. But the times have made for a difficult summer.” A Bryan Cave intern put it this way: “It is a scary time to be a law student.”
One indication of just how scary: The number of summer clerks who said they expected to receive full-time job offers was down sharply, according to our survey, while anecdotal evidence culled from respondents’ answers to open-ended questions suggested that stress and anxiety levels were up.
I had thought that many summers were stuck in the anger stage of grief. But this report suggests that many summers have actually jumped all the way ahead to stage four: depression. I guess that is progress?
As we suspected, 2009 summers took more of an “every man for himself” approach to this year’s summer experience. Details after the jump.
One of the most notable parts of the survey results is that it seems like summers were really trying as hard as they could:
With the recession already in effect by mid-2008, last year’s summers were more nervous than those in prior years. Summer supervisors say that worries were even more pronounced this year. That may have had the effect of making the 2009 summers a bit more competitive and less collegial, at least with their peers. “My impression was that they were trying harder to make more of an impression,” says Sarah Davies, hiring partner at Philadelphia’s Cozen & O’Connor, this year’s top-ranking firm.
This year’s Cozen associates didn’t just take more initiative in seeking out assignments. They also went out of their way to take more attorneys to lunch, including some senior partners. “They were definitely trying harder,” says Cozen summer program director Scott Brucker. “They weren’t taking anything for granted.”
Summers drenching themselves in “Eau du Desperation” suggests that they weren’t feeling entitled to full time employment.
Still summers did want the law firms to do one thing. The scariest things about being a summer in 2009 seemed to be not knowing what was going to happen to you:
Almost half of this year’s summer class said they weren’t sure whether they would get full-time offers from their firms, compared to just 17 percent last year and 12 percent in 2007. Many of the rising 3Ls expressed deep frustration–and in some cases outright panic–over being kept in the dark about firms’ hiring plans. “For the love of God,” pleaded one Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher clerk in a typical comment, “please be more transparent about the offer process and outlook.”
Most top law students are pretty good at following instructions and doing what they are told. But this year, it looks like summers didn’t really know what the new rules actually were. What did it take to get an offer? How many offers were available? It appears that this year’s summers simply didn’t know.
Now that the summer is over — and 3L recruiting has revealed itself to be a barren waste — will 2009 summers be able to move onto acceptance?
For current 2Ls who are going through recruiting for the summer of 2010: welcome to your future.
Summertime Blues [American Lawyer]
Earlier: Summer Fling, Don’t Mean a Thing?
Should 2Ls Accept All of Their Offers to the Detriment of Fellow Students?