Summer Interview Program Reveals Increase in Job Opportunities for Students

Summer Interview Program Reveals Increase in Job Opportunities for Students

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New York, August 10, 2010—The number of firms set to interview Columbia Law School students for summer associate positions has jumped 17 percent compared to last year, said Petal Modeste, the Law School’s dean for Career Services and Professional Development.

In addition, the number of interviews that law firms will conduct with second-year students starting Wednesday is up 8 percent to 8,780, a strong indication that firms will employ more summer associates in 2011 than they did this summer,  Modeste said.

The Early Interview Program (EIP) is traditionally the source of the largest number of summer associate positions; these interviews often lead to offers of permanent employment after graduation.

“The market outlook appears to be better,” said Modeste, who before joining the Law School was a senior director and strategic advisor for legal recruiting at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. “Based on what I’m hearing from firm partners, I get the sense that they expect business in a year or two to be strong enough to keep new hires employed and productive.”

Modeste is encouraged by the number of firms participating in the EIP, which takes place after a challenging year for many large firms, who were forced to lay off lawyers and defer the start dates for incoming associates. Some firms canceled their 2010 summer associates programs altogether. Now, she added, it appears firms that under-hired last year are playing catch-up.

Indeed, more firms have extended permanent job offers to all of their summer associates this year, according to recent news reports—a marked contrast to 2009—during the height of the recession.

Modeste also believes 2010 will mark the end of deferrals, and that any deferrals would push back start dates by only a few months.

Despite the improving outlook, competition for available summer positions will remain intense, Modeste said. She added that students must be more prepared than ever to demonstrate their professionalism and knowledge about firms during their interviews. The Office of Career Services and Professional Development helps students prepare in many ways, including by arranging practice interviews with lawyers from firms in more than a dozen cities internationally. The resulting critiques are designed to boost students’ confidence as they hone their interviewing skills.

“Our students understand that the legal profession just went through the worst economic downturn in its recent history,” Modeste said. “Law firms are businesses. They had to make adjustments. And that process continues.”

Still, Modeste is sanguine about how students will fare during EIP: “Based on the strong firm turnout, I’m optimistic that’s going to translate into more job opportunities for our students.”

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Read a related story on this subject in the New York Law Journal.

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