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Law firm recruiting, succession planning fall flat

Studies find entry-level hiring and leadership transitions are stalled

Two recent studies unveil some troubling trends among the country’s law firms.

On Monday, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) reported that for the fourth year in a row, law firm on-campus recruiting—which many law students rely on for entry-level positions at Big Law firms—is relatively flat even as some firms are making moderate revenue gains. According to the report, the average summer class size in 2012 was nine associates, which is just one more than the historic low of eight that occurred in 2009. In 2012, the average number of summer associate offers for students set to graduate in 2014 was 20, down from 22 in 2011, and 44.2 percent of interviews led to job offers, down from 46.4 percent in 2011.

In another study, consulting firm Altman Weil Inc. found that law firms have been slow to implement succession plans within their firms. Principal Alan Olson says this is due to firms’ fear of alienating valuable clients since the recession.

Olson says that without a leadership transition plan in place, firms could face expertise gaps and ultimately could lose clients. Having a five-year plan, he says, would help firms transition their clients to new teams of lawyers and provide ample training time to lawyers who are taking over for departing partners.

Succession plans should be a priority for firms because, as Altman Weil’s study points out, 30 percent to 40 percent of actively practicing lawyers in the U.S. and Canada are starting to retire.

For more insight into these studies, read the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and Thomson Reuters.

For more recent law firm news from InsideCounsel, read:

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Prediction: 2013 will be the year the associate dies

Ashley Post

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