The chief recruitment officers for two major law firms—Skadden Arps and Finnegan—say that JD intern and full-time hiring is up this year, but neither firm expects hiring to get back to pre-recession levels anytime soon if ever.
Christina Fox, global attorney recruiting manager at Skadden Arps, said that the firm hired 220 interns this summer, up 10% from 200 last year, and that full-time hiring is also up. But she said “hiring is more measured and strategic” as well as “more cautious and thoughtful. Each year we have been creeping up…but I don’t think it will be back to pre-recession levels, if ever.”
Tim Henderson, chief recruitment and development officer at Finnegan, echoed Fox’s sentiments, without giving specific numbers. “We’re up this year as well and doing more second-year summer hiring,” said Henderson, who noted that overall things are much better for recently minted JDs, with higher starting compensation as well. “Bonuses paid by some of the larger New York firms were crazy this year.”
ADVICE: GET A JD AND LEARN PORTUGESE OR MANDARIN
Fox said Shadden Arps is “leaving a certain space open for third-year hires and LLM graduates which is good news for international students or those who have worked in other industries before going to law school.”
They made their remarks at a conference for law school communication officials at George Washington Law School today (June 19). Asked what advice they would give a prospective JD student, Fox said she would ask the question: “Do you really want to be a lawyer? Law school has been thought of as a great stepping stone or a place to figure things out. That doesn’t work so much, anymore.”
She said that Skadden has “a lot of opportunities abroad for locally qualified folks and U.S. JDs, though the firm has seen less interest from law school graduates in going overseas. “If you have a neighbor’s kid who wants some advice,” Fox added, “you should tell them to learn Portuguese or Mandarin because there is a shortage of JDs and LLMs with those language skills.”
SOME WORK EXPERIENCE BEFORE LAW SCHOOL VIEWED AS A PLUS
Henderson said he would advise prospective students to get some work experience before going to law school. “Students who have worked in a professional environment have a lot more maturity than those who go direct to law school” from their undergraduate colleges, he said, joking that law school graduates are often described as “the largest collection of career unknowns.”
“Every employer wants someone who can hit the ground running so someone who a fellowship or bridge program can be helpful,” he added. Henderson said he was not a fan of study abroad programs for law school students, instead preferring candidates who had exposure to real work experience.
Fox added that her firm is seeing more international students in U.S. law schools but that “visas are a problem. We’re definitely struggling with that.”
Asked about the high turnover in Big Law, she said that “turnover is pretty consistent. Large firms are not designed to make everyone a partner.” But Fox said that her firm devotes substantial resources to make sure that lawyers who depart the firm leave happy because alumni often hire the firm once they work for corporate and other clients.