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August 24, 2009 11:59 AM

Update: Skadden to Cut Summer Class by Half, Change Recruiting Process

Posted by Zach Lowe

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is cutting the size of its 2010 summer associate class by half and adjusting its recruitment strategy by making all of its offers on a single day in late September, according to a copy of a letter the firm will send to prospective summers.

Skadden hired 225 summer associates this year and expects to hire a little more than 100 next year, though the precise figure will depend on offer acceptance rates, says Howard Ellin, Skadden's recruiting partner.

The firm will not rescind offers to any prospective 2010 summers; if, say, 150 summers accept, the firm will hire all 150 even though that number exceeds the figure it currently has in mind, Ellin says.

"That is unprofessional and a shock to our conscience," he says of rescinding offers.

The letter also contains good news for 2009 summers: The firm plans to offer full-time positions to 95 percent of them, although they will not start until 2011. 

Those lucky enough to land spots in Skadden's 2010 summer class will receive those offers on the same day--Sept. 22, which the firm has dubbed "Skadden Offer Day." The firm will continue to give those who receive offers 45 days to evaluate them in compliance with informal guidelines set by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). 

The change comes in response to the growing number of law schools who have pushed first- and second-round interviews up to late August and early September, Ellin says.

He and Carol Sprague, Skadden's director of associate and alumni relations and attorney recruiting, are interviewing at Harvard Law School today, and the school's callback week starts on Sept. 11. Other top schools have moved to similar timetables, and more law firm recruiters have openly expressed their discomfort with a recruiting timetable that requires them to make summer offers almost a year in advance.

In the past Skadden has made offers on a rolling timetable that has extended in some cases past Thanksgiving, but the increasingly early interview schedule--plus the 45-day guideline--has created a situation where making the decision earlier is best for the firm, and, perhaps, for the students.

"The fact that schools are now front-loading in August and September has squeezed things so tightly that it made this an easy thing to do," Ellin says.

Whether the firm continues the single-day offer strategy depends in part on whether firms, schools and NALP can come together to push back the recruiting calender.

"This does not make sense anymore, and in our judgment needs to change," Ellin says. "And it will take all the various constituencies, primarily the schools, with prodding from the law firms."

Skadden also plans to sink more attorney resources into the recruiting process. Two attorneys instead of one will conduct as many on-campus interviews as possible, and prospective summers who visit the firm's office will "spend significantly more time in the firm and with each interviewer," the letter says.

Skadden will continue its tradition of hosting a "Super Saturday" of in-office interviews; it will be held on Sept. 12 this year. 

The firm will also begin using a wait list for callbacks and offers, the letter says.

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