Being a summer associate just isn’t what it used to be. Sure, there are still fun parties and social events to attend, but in the back of everyone’s mind is the creeping worry that out of all the classes of 100 percent offer rates, they might be the one to get left behind. They’re very, very worried about making the cut, especially considering the fact that others have been forced to apply for deli clerk jobs. They realize even more that they hold their own futures in their hands, and this year, they were literally begging for more work and more hours.

These were the conclusions drawn from the American Lawyer’s 2013 Summer Associate Survey. Am Law polled 3,817 law students at 134 firms about their summer experiences and used the results to rank 112 summer programs. This year’s crop of would-be lawyers were even more worried than last year’s, which speaks volumes about the unease coursing through Biglaw during a time when layoffs and buyouts — on the staff, associate, and partner level — were running rampant.

But even so, the overall rankings were positive (though perhaps the summers rated their firms so highly out of fear for getting no-offered, we’re not sure). If you’re a law student trying to figure out where to spend your summer, you’re probably asking: which law firms came out with the highest scores?

Here are the top ten summer programs, as ranked by American Lawyer (click to enlarge):

Our congratulations go out to Cozen O’Connor for clinching this year’s top spot, again, but this time around, the firm has to share the limelight with Foley Hoag, a firm that rose up from a second-place finish last year. (Foley Hoag does legal work for Breaking Media, parent company of Above the Law.)

Both Cozen and Foley received perfect scores from their summer associates, which makes you wonder what they’re putting in the Kool-Aid over there. In fact, all of the firms in the top 10 deserve to be praised for their near-perfect scores (and perfect or near-perfect associate response rates), especially the ones that soared in this year’s rankings, like Nutter McClellen (a firm that wasn’t even ranked last year), O’Melveny, and Gibson Dunn. You can see how all 112 summer programs ranked over at the American Lawyer.

Keep in mind, though, that despite the fact that these programs were so highly rated, the summer associates working at the firms in question were fraught with worry. Like last year, they complained that social events were cutting into their billable hours and their experience of the bone-crushing Biglaw grind. They wanted to be worked to death, lest they not be able to work at all. Here’s more from Am Law:

Summer associates reported being slightly more worried than last year about the number of jobs available, and they also sensed more anxiety among their classmates. And with fewer openings in law firm summer associate programs, those who landed the coveted positions came ready to work, knowing that if they didn’t make the grade, plenty of other law students would be ready to replace them.

Of course they were worried about the number of jobs: the Weil Gotshal winnowing took place during their summer associateships. We should note, though, that Weil’s own summer associates were said to have “cheekily” mentioned the layoffs as one of the most memorable parts of the summer. While we think that makes them sound sick, we’ll go ahead and chalk it up to a case of Biglaw Stockholm syndrome.

(N.B. As to the summer hours worked in 2013, a “vocal minority” reported that their workloads were too extreme. “I was given some amazing work, but I also didn’t expect the hours to be as long,” said one SA at Dykema, whose Biglaw career is probably not long for this world. Protip: Try to find another job.)

At the end of the day, given the high number of 100 percent offer rates, it seems like these summer associates were worried without reason. Unlike in 2012, where at least one firm’s offer rate was below 70 percent, we didn’t hear of very many horror stories this summer. If you’ve got an offer of employment, hold it close and cherish it, because just 58.3 percent of the class of 2012 were working full-time as lawyers.

And hey, look at it this way: at least you won’t be slicing bologna!

The 2013 Summer Associates Survey [American Lawyer]
Chart: Ranking Summer Associate Satisfaction [American Lawyer]
Summer Associates Rank Their Firms [American Lawyer]

Earlier: Ranking 2012′s Summer Associate Programs: Spare Us the Wining and Dining, We’re Too Terrified to Have Fun
Nationwide Layoff Watch: Major Cuts Come To Weil Gotshal
Nationwide Layoff and No-Offer Watch: Winston & Strawn
Guess What Entry-Level Job This Unemployed Lawyer Is Seeking


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