According to Texas Lawyer despite a sagging economy, recent layoff announcements and the discontinuation of a summer associate program by one large Texas firm, 17 of the 25 largest firms in Texas confirm they are continuing with their 2009 summer associate programs.
Summer associates are the primary recruiting pool for the new talent hired by many firms. The students who will be working at firms during the summer of 2009 will become the majority of the firms’ first-year associates in 2010.
Summer associate programs are expensive. Most of Texas’ large firms pay the students $3,000 a week for positions lasting from six to 10 weeks. The firms also pay housing allowances for the students, as well as entertainment costs, such as meals and tickets for concerts and sports events.
But these are tough times, even in Texas. Six firms with large Texas operations — Andrews Kurth; Baker Botts; Gardere; K&L Gates; King & Spalding; and Winstead — have laid off lawyers this year. Also, earlier this month, Winstead cancelled its summer associate program. [ See “Inadmissible,” Texas Lawyer , March 16, 2009, page 3. ] Firm spokeswoman Shannon Tipton declines to specify the number of students involved or when they were notified that the summer program was cancelled. During the summer of 2008, Winstead employed 28 summer associates.
One student from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas was affected by Winstead’s decision to cancel the 2009 program, says Karen C. Sargent, assistant dean and director of career services for the law school. Sargent says the affected student is one of the school’s best and has other opportunities.
Donna David-Gregory, assistant dean of career services at Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, says that none of the law school’s students were in the summer program cancelled by Winstead.
Career services officials at the other seven American Bar Association-accredited law schools in Texas did not, before presstime on March 19, return a telephone call made to each seeking comment. Most Texas law schools were on spring break last week.
But at least 17 of the 25 firms employing the most lawyers in Texas, as listed on Texas Lawyer’s “The Texas 100” poster published April 28, 2008, say they are committed to employing those students recruited in the fall of 2008 for the 2009 summer programs. Most of the firms, as anticipated, hired smaller 2009 summer classes than they did in 2008. [See “Some Firms Scale Back Summer Programs in Tough Economy,” Texas Lawyer , Oct. 27, page 1. ]
Seven firms among Texas’ largest 25 did not respond to requests for information about their 2009 summer programs before Texas Lawyer ‘s presstime on March 19: Brown McCarroll; Clark, Thomas & Winters; Fulbright & Jaworski; Gardere; King & Spalding; K&L Gates, and Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr.
“It’s just a sign of the times when you’re trying to cut expenses and laying off people that you ask ‘Why spend money on the summer associate program?’ ” says William C. Cobb, a Houston recruiter and consultant. All firms have conservative budgets this year and are cutting costs where possible, such as canceling annual firm meetings or holding them in a firm office rather than at an off-site resort, he says.
Cobb says most firms will continue with their summer associate programs to maintain good public relations with potential future employees. “But I bet all the summer associate programs will do things a lot more cheaply than is normally done,” he says. “They will cut back on entertainment, parties and buying expensive wines.”
Despite layoffs, two large Texas-basedfirms are continuing with their 2009 summer associate programs. Baker Botts has hired 83 summer associates for its offices in Austin, Dallas and Houston, writes Rachel S. Koenig in an e-mail message. She is the firm’s director of recruiting and development. The firm employed 124 summer associates in Texas in 2008. The Houston-based firm, which laid off lawyers and staff earlier this year, declines to specify the number of layoffs. [See “Baker Botts Layoffs,” Tex Parte , March 13, 2008. ] It employed 554 lawyers in Texas and 825 firm-wide as of Jan. 1.
Why is the firm continuing with a summer program despite recent layoffs? “It is absolutely vital to keep recruiting during an economic recession,” Koenig writes.
Another firm that had layoffs, according to two former associates and three legal recruiters who requested anonymity, was Andrews Kurth. [See “Layoffs at Andrews Kurth,” Tex Parte , March 3, 2008 ]. The firm declines comment about the layoffs reported in Tex Parte.
But the Houston-based firm is continuing its summer program. The firm has hired 31 summer associates, says Alexis J. Gomez, hiring partner for the firm’s Houston office. The firm employed 328 lawyers in Texas and 390 firm-wide as of Jan. 1.
Andrews Kurth hired a smaller number of summer associates for 2009, compared to the 51 Texas summer associates hired in 2008, due to a “record number of acceptances from our 2008 summer program and in order to accommodate the firm’s future needs,” Gomez writes in an e-mail message. The firm made full-time job offers to 29 of its 34 second-year 2008 summer associates, and 19 of those students accepted jobs with the firm beginning in the fall of 2009. “We also expect to scale back our [summer associate] entertainment in order to focus more on the firm’s core values in 2009,” he writes.
Bracewell & Guiliani has hired 49 summer associates for its Texas offices, says Michael S. Telle, hiring partner for the Houston-based firm. “We think it’s important to maintain a steady, disciplined hiring program regardless of short term changes in the economy,” Telle says.
The 451-lawyer firm hired 55 Texas summer associates in 2008. The firm looks at the summer program’s expense as a long term investment, he says.
“We hope these students will spend their career with us, which will last 40 or 50 years,” he says. “If we stopped hiring just because of a short-term blip in the economy, we would end up with a hole in our ranks at the associate level and that hole would exist up through the partner level.”
Telle says Bracewell’s smaller 2009 summer class size is due to a high acceptance rate by 2008 summer associates who accepted jobs for the fall of 2009. The firm offered jobs to 38 of its 42 second-year summer associates in 2008, and 24 of those 2Ls have accepted full-time jobs with Bracewell beginning in the fall of 2009. [See “BigTex Firms’ Acceptance Rates Consistent in ’08,” Texas Lawyer , Dec.15, 2008, page 1 ].
Dallas-based Thompson & Knight has hired 22 summer associates, says J. Holt Foster, hiring partner for the 432-lawyer firm. Last summer the firm employed 36 summer associates but decided to decrease its 2009 summer program when the economy continued to slow down in the second half of 2008, he says. Foster says the summer associate program is an integral part of the firm’s future.
“You need to be long-term sighted,” he says. “You always want to make sure, as a top tier firm, that you put yourself in a position to find the most talented students and create a relationship with them. We’re in this for a marathon, not for a sprint.”
Washington, D.C.-based Patton Boggs has hired nine summer associates for its Texas office, says Eric White, hiring partner for the firm’s Dallas office. The firm employs 104 lawyers in Texas and 540 firm-wide.
“We’re still going to have our format as outlined for our summer associate program, which is first half only for six to seven weeks,” White says. “We have no plan to scrap it or reduce it or anything like that.”
The firm employed 16 Texas summer associates in 2008 and decided, when recruiting for the summer 2009 class during the fall of 2008, that a smaller class would be appropriate this summer. “With the uncertainty of the economy, we thought it was prudent to have a smaller class,” White says.
Dallas-based Haynes and Boone also is reducing entertainment costs for the approximately 56 law students it is bringing in to work in its Texas offices as summer associates, says Thomas H. Yang, the 464-lawyer firm’s hiring partner. In 2008, the firm employed 71 Texas summer associates.
“In general we’ve always been cost conscious about expenses, not just for the summer,” he says. “Rather than go to the nicest restaurants in town for lunches and dinners, we can go to more reasonably priced restaurants,” he says.
Yang says that the firm’s budget for dollars spent per recruit is less than it has been in previous years but that it’s important for the firm to hire summer associates, despite the economy. “We take a longer term view, and therefore I think it is important for us to continue to recruit and attract the top students to the firm,” he says.
Glenn D. West, managing partner of the Dallas office of New York-based Weil, Gotshal & Manges, says it would be “imprudent, if not offensive” for a firm to not be trying to cut costs in this environment. Weil, Gotshal has hired 25 summer associates for its offices in Austin, Dallas and Houston, West says. The firm employs 128 lawyers in Texas and 1,365 firm-wide. In 2008, the firm employed 40 Texas associates.
“We’ve never had a highly entertainment-oriented summer associate program,” West says. “I’m not even sure that there is much additional cutting to do. We certainly will be looking at it,” he says.
But West notes that recruiting is an essential firm expense. “There may be a lot of things one should do, in this environment [to reduce costs], but stopping or thwarting recruiting is not one of them, in our opinion,” he says.
“A law firm is a bit like a fishing stream,” West says. “If you don’t have the spring pumping new water into the stream, it can stagnate.”
Thomas S. Leatherbury, hiring partner for Houston-based Vinson & Elkins, agrees that summer associate programs are a necessary firm expense.
“It’s an expensive process, but it is the future of the firm,” Leatherbury says. “We hire most of our [entry level] lawyers from the summer program. It is very important to us to hire exceptional legal talent, and that’s where we get it from, our summer program.”
The firm, which employs 532 lawyers in Texas and 736 firm-wide, has hired 119 summer associates, about the same number of summer associates the firm hired in 2008, he says.
Hunton & Williams also has hired the same number of summer associates for its Texas offices — five students — as it did in 2008, says Patrick E. Mitchell, the managing partner of the Dallas office of the Richmond, Va.-based firm.
“We always planned on having five, and that is what we’ve got, and we’re looking forward to it,” he says. The firm employs 135 lawyers in Texas and 976 firm-wide. Mitchell says it is important for firms to have summer associate programs despite an uncertain economy. “The only product we sell is people,” he says.
At San Antonio-based Cox Smith Matthews, 17 or 18 students will be working at the firm this summer, says Scott B. Bankler, chairman of the recruiting committee of the 127-lawyer firm. In 2008, Cox Smith hired 19 summer associates.
“We’re taking a look at expenses, given the economy, but we hope we can run a similar program to those in previous years,” Bankler says.
Fort Worth-based, 126-lawyer Kelly Hart & Hallman has hired seven summer associates, a few less than the nine students the firm hired in 2008, says firm recruiter Prissy Moore.
Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons, with 104 lawyers, has hired six students as summer associates, says Ellen M. Van Meir, a partner in Dallas and chairwoman of the firm’s associate and recruiting committee. “The program is still going forward,” she says. The Dallas-based firm employed 10 students during its 2008 summer associate program.
Five other large firms reported the number of students hired for the 2009 summer associate programs in the firms’ Texas offices. Dallas-based Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has hired 26 summer associates, says spokeswoman Sheila Turner. Jackson Walker, based in Dallas, has hired 24 summer associates, recruiting director Kim DiLallo writes in an e-mail. Cleveland-based Jones Day, which has offices in Dallas and Houston, has hired 41 summer associates, says Kathy Shea, recruiting manager for the Dallas office. Dallas-based Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell has hired 38 Texas associates, firm spokeswoman Julie Gilbert writes in an e-mail. Strasburger & Price, based in Dallas, has hired six summer associates, writes Linsi Walker, the firm’s recruiting and professional development manager, in an e-mail.