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September 29, 2009 8:37 AM

Summer Associates Survey 2009: Summertime Blues

Posted by Ed Shanahan

By Susan Hansen from the Fall 2009 issue of The American Lawyer Student Edition

Considering the way law firms have been shedding attorneys and staffers, it's hardly a surprise that being a summer clerk this year wasn't exactly the full five-star experience the summer class of 2009 may have dreamed about in law school.

Instead of being courted and catered to, this year's summer class came face to face with the rough realities of the continuing economic downturn.

"The economic times suck," one clerk at New York's Skadden, Arps, Meagher, Slate & Flom wrote bluntly in response to our most recent summer associates survey. "The firm can't change that. But the times have made for a difficult summer." A Bryan Cave intern put it this way: "It is a scary time to be a law student."

One indication of just how scary: The number of summer clerks who said they expected to receive full-time job offers was down sharply, according to our survey, while anecdotal evidence culled from respondents' answers to open-ended questions suggested that stress and anxiety levels were up.

Almost half of this year's summer class said they weren't sure whether they would get full-time offers from their firms, compared to just 17 percent last year and 12 percent in 2007. Many of the rising 3Ls expressed deep frustration--and in some cases outright panic--over being kept in the dark about firms' hiring plans. "For the love of God," pleaded one Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher clerk in a typical comment, "please be more transparent about the offer process and outlook."

>That said, Gibson and other firms still managed to provide their clerks with substantive assignments, along with free (if generally less lavish) meals and an assortment of summer outings. But the ongoing uncertainty over job prospects definitely distracted from the usual unabashed summer fun.

Click here to access the full article and the complete Summer Associates Survey.

The Fall 2009 issue of The American Lawyer Student Edition is available at this link.

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