- Law firms are considering delaying, shortening, or eliminating summer associate classes and are expected to make decisions in the coming days, sources familiar with the matter told Business Insider.
- The prospect has caused unease among students at the nation’s top law schools, many of whom have paid their tuition in hopes of gaining entry into the nation’s most elite firms.
- On March 23, NYU School of Law sent an email to students who were searching for private-sector jobs, seeking to inform them about the ongoing employment situation.
- The email noted that some firms “may be preparing for delayed start dates or alternative working arrangements.”
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Law firms around the United States are weighing the possibility of delaying, shortening, or eliminating summer associate classes and are expected to make decisions in the coming days, people familiar with the matter have told Business Insider.
Four sources told Business Insider that law firms, including the largest, said that in light of the disruption of the novel coronavirus, they were looking at changing their approach to bringing on summer associates, or interns who law firms hire following their first year in law school to get their first months experience in the legal profession.
The internships are generally considered a stable track to a full-time offer after students complete their second year in law school.
The four sources were one consultant and three partners at different Big Law firms, all of whom declined to be named publicly.
“Demand is questionable and process is delayed,” one said. “Some firms looking at reduced work weeks for reduced pay as a way to avoid harder choices.”
Another said that many firms “should be announcing soon that they will be delaying/shortening or eliminating theirs.” A third said that he had heard “virtual summer programs” being considered, though he wasn’t sure how that would work.
NYU addresses concerns
The prospect has caused unease among students at the nation’s top law schools, many of whom have paid their tuition in hopes of gaining entry into the nation’s most elite firms.
On March 23, NYU School of Law sent an email to students who were searching for private-sector jobs, seeking to inform them about the ongoing employment situation, as the coronavirus continues to keep businesses closed.
“We recognize that the current situation is creating a lot of stress and anxiety for many of you as you navigate switching to remote learning while also managing your own personal lives and contemplating your summer and post-graduation employment, whether you have secured a position or not,” the email seen by Business Insider said.
The email then went through a list of questions — like, “I’ve accepted an offer, but I’m worried about the economy. Should I be?” — and NYU offered answers.
In one answer, NYU said it had reached out to all law firms that had recruited at the school for summer associate classes and “the good news is they are continuing to prepare for their summer and entry-level associates.”
But the email went on to state that some firms “may be preparing for delayed start dates or alternative working arrangements.”
The school said that it had asked the firms to work with incoming associates directly, but “we ask for your patience since most law firms are focused on their short-term plans,” including adjusting to client needs.
An NYU Law spokesman verified the contents of the email. Deans and professors at Yale Law School, Harvard Law School and Berkeley Law did not respond to a request for information about summer classes.
Many big law firms including Gibson Dunn, Kirkland & Ellis, DLA Piper and Baker McKenzie, did not provide comment on how they were managing their classes, while others including Sheppard Mullin said they had not yet made a final decision.
An Irell & Manella spokeswoman said that the Los Angeles-based firm had not made any changes to its summer program, but that “we are continually monitoring the evolving situation and will make logistical adjustments, if necessary, based on circumstances that exist at the start of the program.”
Law students disrupted
Several law students interviewed by Business Insider offered early signs about their summer prospects.
Kevin Frazier, a 1L at University of California, Berkeley, said that law firm meet-and-greet receptions had been postponed or cancelled, and that he was doing much of his recruiting outreach to firms via LinkedIn.
“When you think about law firm recruiting in general, it’s all about, ‘Do I want to spend 7o to 80 hours a week with this person, and that’s hard to establish on Zoom,” said Frazier.
“I don’t think our traditional model of on-campus interviewing is going to stand up well against COVID-19, especially in a hot spot like the Bay Area,” he said.
Frazier, who previously was the executive assistant to Oregon governor Kate Brown before becoming a legal assistant at Google, is seeking employment at a law firm with a focus on tech, venture capital and intellectual property. He has an internship lined up this summer at Cloudflare, the internet company.
One challenge he pointed to was that multiple law schools including his own had switched the grading system to credit, no-credit this semester, which makes it difficult for students to stand out.
And even for those who did have legal internships intact already, there are worries about what kind of experience they would have once they were in the door.
“It’s a question of, ‘What is my workload going to be like and am I going to get to go into the office and receive any real one-to-one feedback and teaching, which is arguably the most important part of an internship,” he said.
Students change plans
Over on the East Coast, several students also expressed uncertainty about what’s ahead.
Catherine Katz, a 1L student at Harvard Law, had planned to land a legal internship in London, but given the international travel restrictions, she will spend more time promoting a book she just finished writing called the Daughters of Yalta.
The book, slated for a September release, focuses on the relationships Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Averell Herriman had with their daughters during World War II.
“We are in the face of uncertainty,” said Katz, who is still exploring legal internships. “Every day brings new challenges. But as an author I’m glad to be able to put everything I have into this book.”
If you’re a law student or practicing lawyer — or if you’re working on Wall Street more broadly — we want to hear from you. Contact this reporter at [email protected], DM on Twitter @caseyreports, or Signal message at 646 376 6017.