Seven More Firms Cut Their Summer Programs Short

By Xiumei Dong
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Law360 (April 23, 2020, 9:44 PM EDT) -- Seven more law firms, including Skadden, Paul Hastings and Wilson Sonsini, confirmed Thursday they have cut back the length of their summer associate programs, moving the classes online as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goodwin Procter LLP, Mayer Brown LLP, Foley & Lardner LLP and Husch Blackwell LLP also said they have shortened the duration of their programs and gone with virtual models as they track how the pandemic plays out.

Instead of the traditional 10-week program, New York-based Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP has sent a letter to its summer associates saying that it plans to host an eight-week program to begin on June 22. The firm confirmed the letter, which was obtained by Law360 on Thursday.

"We expect that our program will include an initial remote component, followed by an in-person portion of the program (provided that circumstances allow)," Janine Jjingo and Pat Rideout, chairs of Skadden's summer associate program, said in the email.

Despite shortening the length of the program, Skadden will still pay students the full salaries it had originally planned, the two partners said. Furthermore, the salaries will be issued in advance in mid-May to assist with the associates' living expenses, they added.

Boston-founded Goodwin Procter has also compressed its summer program to five weeks, and it will be offered virtually starting on July 6, the firm confirmed Thursday.

"The summer associates will be issued with a firm laptop equipped with all the technology that they'll need to participate in the program," said Goodwin's national hiring partner Emily Rapalino in an interview with Law360.

"So, they'll have access to all the relevant software and databases that they need to do substantive work assignments over the summer," Rapalino added.

All interactions will take place remotely, Rapalino said. But, she noted, when the circumstances are allowed, the associates are welcome to come to the firm's offices to have coffee and lunch with the attorneys.

This year, Goodwin has accepted a total of 85 summer associates, including 83 second-year students and two first-year students. According to Rapalino, the students will be compensated for the duration of the program, which is based on the firm's first-year associate salary of $190,000 a year but prorated for the five-week program.

"Our thinking there is that our work ethic at Goodwin is to work hard and produce excellent work product, and to pay our associates for the work that they do," Rapalino said. "It's how we operate for our current associates and we want to be consistent in that ethos with our summer associates as well."

The firm will decide whether to extend job offers to its summer associates at the completion of the program. However, Goodwin has typically made offers to 100% of its summer associates as part of past programs, Rapalino said.

Meanwhile, Chicago-based Mayer Brown said Thursday that it will host a five-week virtual program for this year's summer associates, which should to start in early July.

"Taking into account the health and safety of our people, as well as uncertainty in the U.S. cities in which we operate, we are modifying our summer associate program in the U.S.," a firm spokesperson said in a statement to Law360. "This year, we will have a five-week virtual program starting in early July that includes a mix of substantive training and skill-development programming for our summer associates, who will be paid for the period of the program."

Mayer Brown will offer full-time positions to all of its second-year summer associates to join the firm as associates in the fall of 2021, while the first-year summer associates will receive offers to return next summer, the spokesperson added.

Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner confirmed Thursday that it has delayed the start of its summer associate program to no earlier than June 15, but declined to provide further detail on how the program will run or whether it will pay the associates full compensation.

In a statement to Law360 on Thursday, a firm spokesperson said, "our attorneys and professional staff continue to focus on plans to provide incoming summer associates with a meaningful and engaging summer program experience."

Kansas City-based Husch Blackwell also announced it has modified its 2020 Summer Associate Program. According to a firm statement, the incoming class will be split into two groups, and each group will participate in a five-week program over consecutive five-week periods beginning in mid-June.

Los Angeles-based Paul Hastings LLP has revised the start date of its summer program to July 6 and will be offering it virtually, the firm confirmed Thursday.

"Given the continued uncertainty around the impact of COVID-19 on our business, we have created a virtual program that we believe will be as fulfilling and rewarding for all of you as our traditional program," the firm said in its letter to the summer associates.

It further noted, "as you will appreciate, the situation is fluid and we very much hope to be able to invite you to spend some time in our offices if it is safe to do so."

Paul Hastings also plans to extend full-time employment offers of all members of this year's summer class at the conclusion of the program, the firm said.

On April 9, Palo Alto-based Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC also sent a letter to its summer class telling them that it has reduced the summer program from 10 weeks to six weeks, starting on June 15.

"While we hope to host the summer program in person, we may need to engage with everyone through a virtual program, due to the likelihood that social interaction restrictions will be extended," Wilson Sonsini firmwide law school recruiting manager Elizabeth Pond said in the letter obtained by Law360 on Thursday.

Pond said the firm will make a final decision on whether to go virtual with its program by May 1.

As part of the program, summer associates will be paid a salary of $3,654 per week for the six-week summer program, Pond said in the letter. To make up for the shortened and modified program, the firm has extended offers to all participants to join the firm as fall associates in 2021.

The firm is also giving students the option to earn the six weeks' summer associate salary by performing six weeks of pro bono legal services.

Not all firms are cutting their summer associate programs short.

Going against the grain, Chicago-based plaintiffs boutique Edelson PC said Thursday it will not delay or reduce its 10-week program, though it will be offered remotely.

The firm's founder and CEO Jay Edelson said his firm has been busier than ever during the pandemic, will need additional help from the summer associate to handle the increasing cases that are coming into the door.

"Our firm is still in a growth mode, so we're still looking to even hire laterals right now," Edelson said. He added the firm also does not plan to cut employee's salaries or reduce the workforce.

The news follows a slew of announcements from other firms about their own summer associate programs.

Fox Rothschild LLP, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Shearman & Sterling LLP on Wednesday also confirmed the rollbacks to their programs

--Editing by Emily Kokoll.

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