As the hot sun gets reacquainted with Connecticut, law firms are bustling again with summer associates.
Some Connecticut firms began revving up their internship programs last year after the economic downturn that beginning in 2008 limited even temporary hires. Still, most firms haven't returned to pre-recession summer class sizes.
"I am seeing far fewer firms participating in spring on-campus recruiting fairs and at fall pre-interview firm receptions," said Lee Hoffman, who co-chairs the recruiting committee at Pullman & Comley in Hartford. "I am noticing it appears as though students are having more offers than they had two or three years ago, and there is an uptick. But I don't think we're back to pre-2008 levels."
Pullman & Comley started two new summer associates in its Bridgeport office last week. Since 2002, Hoffman said, Pullman has never had fewer than two summer associates and never more than five. Since a summer associate position is often viewed as a tryout for a permanent job, the number of summer associates "is based on our hiring needs year in and year out," said Hoffman.
Same goes for Carmody & Torrance, which this year has four summer associates. And at Cohen & Wolf, which started two summer associates last week, a consistent number of summer hires have been brought in going back to before 2008. At Halloran & Sage, partners said they have always brought in between four and five summer associates, since at least 2005. There will be four this year -- three second-year students and one first-year.
"The way we have it structured, we've never gone overboard," said Jeffrey Gostyla, a partner Halloran & Sage's insurance group and the chair of its summer associate program. "We don't bring in a dozen people and tell them we have room for five [permanent attorneys]. That's not our plan."
In fact, bringing in large groups of summer associates doesn't seem to be the plan of many firms.
Nationally, the average summer associate class size remained at eight -- matching what had been the historic low set last year, according to a recent report by the National Association for Law Placement. Smaller classes appear to have allowed firms to extend permanent job offers to the vast majority of summer associates -- something they did not do as recently as 2009, when they had committed to large summer classes pre-recession but saw demand for legal services slow dramatically with the economic crash.
One thing is certain: summer associates are getting more work product-based experiences than ever before.