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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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WSJ: Law Firms Curtail Associate Programs As Economy Slows

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Well this is not good news for many of my compadres – from the Wall Street Journal, Law Firms Curtail Associate Programs As Economy Slows

This time last year, salaried lawyers at many of nation’s largest firms had just scored a pay bump, as business was blazing and firms were scrambling to keep talent. Now, due largely to a slowdown in work relating to mortgages, real estate, mergers and private equity, some firms are rescinding offers to incoming associates and summer associates, asking first-year lawyers to start several months later and shortening their summer programs to save money.

Law firms are businesses. Associates should be asking themselves what they are worth and why, and, particularly now, if there aren’t perhaps ways they could increase their value somehow.

Associates are key revenue generators for law firms. Firms generally charge clients an hourly rate for associates’ work, and the more work firms can assign to associates, the more they can earn. But associates are expensive as well, especially now, after firms jumped to match each other’s raises for them when times were good.

The salary for many entry-level lawyers at large firms in big cities is currently $160,000 per year. Summer associates — typically law students between their second and third years of law school hoping for offers of full-time employment after graduation — often get paid by the week at a rate pegged to the first-year associate salary. In many offices, summer associates in 2008 will bring home $3,100 weekly. So shaving weeks of employment can mean real savings for a law firm.

Make rain boys and girls, make rain.

“I come to work and expect 12-hour days and it’s just not happening,” said one junior associate at New York’s Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. “People have encouraged me to take on pro-bono work, and I have, but there are days when I don’t have enough to do from 10:30 to 6.”

“I’m not exactly complaining,” said the associate. “I’m going to the gym a lot, but frankly, I’m a little bored.”

Sounds like you’re about to be a little downsized, that could be exciting.

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Category: advice to law students, economics and the law, law in the news

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