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Entry-level law firm recruitment slowing down

March 1, 2017

Entry-level law firm recruiting remained strong in 2016, though recent data suggests that law student recruitment for summer positions may have hit its peak in the post-recession economy.

According to the National Association for Law Placement’s Perspectives on 2016 Law Student Recruiting report, firms of all sizes across the country offered summer positions to 94.6 percent of students participating in firm recruitment efforts for summer 2016 programs. That’s down from 95.3 percent of participants receiving offers the previous year.

The percentage of students accepting those offers rose slightly from 84.1 percent in 2015 to 85.5 percent in 2016, but NALP notes in its report that acceptance rates have hovered between 84 and 86 percent since 2010. In the pre-recession economy, acceptance rates ranged from 72 to 77 percent, the report says.

The Midwestern region as a whole experienced slightly stronger recruitment than the nationwide average in 2016, with 95.1 percent of recruitment participants receiving an offer and 90 percent accepting. In Chicago, 97.6 percent of participants were offered a summer job – down from 100 percent in 2015 – and 86.9 percent accepted. In Ohio, 91.4 percent of participants received an offer, and 96.9 percent accepted. Data specific to Indiana offers and acceptances is not included in the report.

NALP Executive Director James Leipold noted that after two years of “rapid escalation” following the Great Recession, the 2016 numbers seem to suggest that the boom in law school recruitment has come to an end, or has at least begun to slow.

“From the 30,000-foot level, it is clear that law firms continue to face pressure to carefully evaluate lawyer staffing levels at every juncture,” Leipold said in a statement. “At the same time, law school graduating class sizes will continue to shrink through at least 2019, leaving fewer students competing for the remaining jobs.”

The full 2016 report can be read here, and a 2015 comparison can be found here.

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