8 More Firms Confirm Tweaks To Summer Associate Programs

By Hailey Konnath
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Law360 (April 15, 2020, 10:56 PM EDT) -- Eight law firms, including Hogan Lovells and Greenberg Traurig LLP, on Wednesday confirmed changes to their summer associate programs in response to the coronavirus pandemic, tweaks that range from canceling the program altogether to delayed start dates and remote work.

The majority of the firms said they planned to move ahead with shortened and delayed programs, but South Florida-based Greenberg Traurig has nixed its summer associate program altogether, citing "uncertainty in the world" and the needs of each individual summer associate.

"We feel it would be inappropriate to conduct a traditional summer associate program this year," the firm said in a statement Wednesday.

Instead, its summer associates will receive offers to join the law firm as summer associates again in 2021 or as first-year associates, depending on their graduation dates, the firm said. The associates will also receive pay advances in July.

And as the firm's offices reopen, they will be able to hire one or more of the students scheduled for the program as hourly interns, Greenberg Traurig said.

The firm also said its first-year associates scheduled to start in September may see their start dates delayed until January 2021.

Washington, D.C.-based Arent Fox LLP also canceled its summer associate program, saying it relies heavily on "live" learning settings, like negotiations, depositions, hearings and closings. Those settings won't be possible while Arent Fox's lawyers and staff work remotely, which they will continue to do for the foreseeable future, the firm said in a statement.

"[W]e will unfortunately not be able to create a rewarding experience for these promising students," Arent Fox said.

It added that each 2020 summer associate will be invited to join the firm as an associate in the fall of 2021 following their graduations.

On the other hand, New York-based Debevoise & Plimpton LLP told Law360 that it plans to host its summer associate program in person and has postponed the start date to late June or early July. Depending on the start date, the program could last four to six weeks, the firm said.

"Ultimately, our plans will depend on the prevailing circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic," Debevoise said.

But regardless of how things shake out, summer associates will be paid the full amount they were initially offered and will also receive $3,000 advances this month, the firm said.

London- and D.C.-based Hogan Lovells said its U.S. summer associate program will be cut in half — from eight weeks to four — and will start later. However, associates will still receive compensation for all eight weeks, the firm said. And all first- and second-year summer associates will receive job offers to return as either summer associates again in 2021 or as full-time associates following graduation.

"The firm will offer online onboarding support and virtual sessions with students in advance of the program start to ensure a smooth integration into the firm and we are prepared to offer virtual delivery of the program if necessary," Hogan Lovells said in the statement.

Reed Smith LLP said it planned to hold an abbreviated five-week summer associate program, adding that it could be held remotely if needed. Summer associates will participate in a training program as well as work with lawyers and staff, the firm said in a statement.

Reed Smith's start date for new associates has also been pushed back to January 2021, although the firm said affected associates will receive a stipend this fall, compensation for bar exams and study costs, as well as health insurance beginning in September.

"While we have had to adjust to new ways of doing business because of coronavirus pandemic, it will not stop us from pushing ahead on important talent initiatives at the firm," Casey Ryan, Reed Smith's global head of legal personnel, said in the statement.

Also on Wednesday, London-based Clifford Chance confirmed that the firm has notified its 39 incoming summer law clerks in the U.S. that the program will begin in June with clerks working remotely. The firm said it would still be delivering "interactive training, hands-on work experience and networking opportunities."

Sarah Posner, Clifford Chance's head of legal recruiting in the Americas, said in a statement that the 2020 program will virtually offer clerks "an authentic Clifford Chance experience."

"Our Americas team shifted to remote working more than four weeks ago and this year's class will get to experience how we're staying connected, working together and moving forward during these unprecedented times," she said. "We're excited to have them join us."

The program's timeline was still being hammered out Wednesday, per the statement.

Washington-based Crowell & Moring LLP has also delayed the start of its summer associate program to June 22 and says it will provide more information to associates by the end of May.

"Our entire firm is now remote, so we are following local and national health and regulatory guidance before starting any on-site programs in our U.S. offices," the firm told Law360.

Los Angeles-based Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP said in a statement that its summer associate program would be shortened to five weeks and delayed until July 6 in light of the pandemic. It said it will still provide enough training and hands-on experience to be able to extend job offers to the summer associates at the program's end.

"The firm is committed to the incoming talented students who were recruited last year and knows that, in spite of the challenges we all face, this summer will be a time of growth, learning and success," Sheppard Mullin said.

The firms add to a growing list of changes to summer associate programs disrupted by COVID-19. On Tuesday, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP said it had pushed its U.S. summer program start date back to June 15. That same day, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP told its summer associates that it wasn't sure exactly how it would move forward, but it is evaluating alternatives "with an eye on providing a meaningful summer associate experience for each of you."

--Additional reporting by Aebra Coe. Editing by Breda Lund.

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