Law360Pulse has released their first post-pandemic “Summer Associate Survey.” As in the past, the questions focused on compensation and hiring, social activities, training and mentorship, and whether law firms adequately prepared them for expected tasks.

2019 was the last year when summer associate programs got a full on site emersion experience complete with mentoring, and the mandatory fun events – cruises, concerts, wine tasting, whitewater rafting etc.. According to the survey 66% of the 2022 respondents participated in a fully in person program this year compared to 27% in 2021.

I was particularly interested in the questions which explored summer associates exposure to innovation and technology.  53% of respondents reported participating in innovation projects. Unfortunately, no details were provided on what type of innovations summer associates were exposed to.

Key Highlights:

  1. Ropes & Gray LLP emerged as the top firm among summer associates, boasting a perfect score and dethroning the incumbent, Morrison Foerster LLP.
  2. Dechert LLP, Alston & Bird LLP, and Skadden Arps Meagher Slate & Flom LLP rounded out the top five. Latham & Watkins LLP saw the biggest leap, up 13 spots from last year.
  3. Summer Associate programs conducted in-person rose to 66% (from only 27% last year.)
  4. Less than half of students (49%) received hiring assurances, down by six percentage points from 2021 and down by a lofty 25 percentage points from 2020.
  5. Signing bonuses are still not the norm: Only 7% of participants reported receiving them, at a median amount of $9,500. 43% percent said their firms offered a bonus to cover living expenses while studying for the bar.
  6. Tech and innovation are lagging: 84% of participants said there was no skill requirement that included giving them the opportunity to create tools to automate workflow, and a scant 20% received software training in contract life cycle management.
  7. In-person experiences were up. Students expressed a lot of excitement about getting to do on-the-job training in actual litigation or deal-making scenarios, in courts, boardrooms and other settings. And 46% categorized their program as “super fun” — almost 19 percentage points more than last year.
  8. The percentage of summer associates allowed to get involved in pro bono work declined to 68% (from 75% last year.)