Law Firms Dial Back Summer Associate Hiring Amid Legal Market Slowdown

In recent years, the legal industry has faced significant challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the need for firms to adapt to new market realities. One such challenge is the slowdown in transactional practices, leading to a decline in demand for legal services. As a result, law firms have dialed back their summer associate hiring in 2022, with a nearly 2% decline in offers extended to second-year law students hoping to land temporary jobs this summer.

Law Firms Dial Back Summer Associate Hiring Amid Legal Market Slowdown reports

Reasons for decline in law firm hiring
The reasons for this hiring slowdown are multifaceted, with many law firms facing the challenge of reduced demand for transactional practices. This has led to a broader slowdown for many law firms, with some laying off lawyers since the fall. Early signs show that law firm profits were down last year from historic highs, leading to firms being more cautious in their hiring.

The implications for law school graduates
For law school graduates, this hiring landscape is a red flag, particularly for the class of 2024, which is 12% larger than the class from which the 2022 summer associate cohort was hired. This means that students will have to look beyond large firms for jobs. The confluence of more students and fewer jobs at large law firms means that more students who aspire to work at large firms may need to look in other sectors of the legal industry for jobs once they graduate.

Summer associate positions
Summer associate positions are 8-10-week summer jobs that typically lead to full-time job offers once law students graduate the following year. Most summer associates are hired by firms after their first year of law school and get permanent job offers before the start of their third year. Those associate jobs begin after they graduate and take the bar exam.

The shift to remote recruiting
The COVID-19 pandemic-induced shift to remote summer associate interviewing has not abated, with 93% of this year’s initial screening interviews taking place virtually. More than 2/3 of callback interviews (77%) were remote. As an increasing number of reports issued these past few weeks have announced falling partner profits, softening hours, and excess capacity at law firms mingled with projections of record rate increases and bullish growth for 2023.

The future of the legal industry
The legal industry is in a state of flux, with many firms reevaluating their hiring practices and seeking new ways to remain competitive. As the legal market continues to shift, law firms will need to adapt to new realities and seek out new talent pools. It is clear that the entry-level job market in the private sector is currently not growing fast enough to absorb the additional students in the Class of 2024.

The legal industry is facing unprecedented challenges, and law firms are responding by dialing back summer associate hiring in 2022. The decline in offers extended to second-year law students is a reflection of the broader slowdown in the legal industry. Law school graduates will need to look beyond large firms for job opportunities, and the industry will need to adapt to new realities to remain competitive.

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