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Most Law Firms Will Shorten Their Summer Programs, NALP Study Says
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While better than half of law firms still intend to offer a summer associate program this year, almost two-thirds will reduce the internship between five to six weeks, and most of them will move the program to an entirely virtual format, according to a National Association for Law Placement study released Thursday.

The NALP conducted the study in May to measure the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the legal field in the United States.

The study – based on the responses of 399 law firms and 155 law schools, found that of the 86% law firms that will host their summer programs, 40% hope to offer a mix of in-person and virtual activities.

  
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Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that they are replacing the traditional length of 10 weeks of the summer program with 5- or 6-week programs this year.

Some top law firms are going further with Kirkland & Ellis cutting down its summer program to only two weeks and Sidley Austin and Baker & Hostetler down to four weeks.

Many in the industry say a pared-down program is still better than nothing. “It makes sense to condense it. It’s very much about the substance over the length,” Nathan Peart, the managing director of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s associate practice group, told The American Lawyer last month.

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According to NALP, of those law firms that will hold a summer program this year, 55% said they would hold all-virtual programs. Some of the top US law firms including Davis Polk, Kirkland & Ellis, Cravath, and Sidley Austin have already announced they are moving summer associate programs online.

For those summer programs that will be fully or partially remote, nearly half (47%) of law firms said they have not yet determined the anticipated number of hours per week that summer associates will work during the remote portion of the program. For those that have decided, three-quarters (75%) predict that summer associates will work 31-40 hours per week remotely.



Only 5% of law firms planning to hold a summer program said their program would be entirely in-person. These were largely offices in the Midwest and the South. In contrast, firms in the Northeast (65%) and the Mid-Atlantic (66%) were more likely to move their programs entirely online.

The vast majority (86%) of firms that have canceled their summer associate programs, said they extended offers to at least some of the 2L students who were set to spend the summer with them. However, as many 2020 law school graduates have had their full-time associate start date pushed back until at least January 2021, it is yet to be seen when the majority of the graduates in 2021 will start full-time work.

NALP also reports that 11% of law firms said they implemented furloughs or layoffs for some of their recruiting, professional development, or diversity and inclusion staff.

Of the 155 law schools surveyed by NALP, over half of the schools (51%) said they have established 2L on-campus interview dates for recruiting the class of 2022 for summer 2021 programs, but many of them have pushed back the dates, mostly from July and August of 2020 to at least January 2021. The push comes as many law schools shifted to a pass/fail grading system this spring.

Nearly all schools (95%) said that they provided their students with opportunities to obtain practical skills due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with research opportunities (89%) being the most frequently reported.



 

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