Law firms hire fewer grads

  • Law firms are cutting costs by choosing not to hire as many graduates.
  • Many firms are also delaying starting dates for employment.
  • However, some firms are choosing alternate ways to cut costs without layoffs or reduced hiring.

Law firms may be choosing to cut back on the number of graduates they hire this year — one of many methods being implemented to cut costs.

The national trend has been noted by numerous high-profile sources in the legal world.

"Law firms are actively considering the prospect of pay cuts, delaying starting dates, sharply reduced offers and more lay-offs," reported The American Lawyer, a monthly law magazine.

The New York Times recently published an editorial with similar information, looking at how firms can react to the shifting economy.

University of Wisconsin-Madison advisor Nilesh Patel cautioned against assuming all firms are getting rid of employees, however.

"It's a national trend, but some firms are hiring, and will need new people," Patel said. "Most of the people who have permanent offers now are going to those firms."

Patel said firms that are not choosing to cut back on hiring are instead choosing to delay hiring graduates right away. For example, graduates who would normally start work in September are starting in December or January, reducing the amount of time they work for a firm.

Some firms are choosing not to employ these options in the face of the economic crisis.

Ray Werner, chairman of the Executive Committee of Arnstein & Lehr LLP, said the firm was not planning to delay hiring, and had no plans on reducing the amount of people hired because of the recession.

"We're trying to be need-based," said Werner. "We're choosing to employ more productive people."

Werner said Arnstein & Lehr is eliminating its summer program, but said the decision to do so had nothing to do with the economy.

"A summer program doesn't work for a firm our size," Werner said.

Arnstein & Lehr plans to hire two graduates for its Chicago branch, the same number hired last year.

Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, is another large firm impacted by the recession.

Larry Driscoll, office manager of Hinshaw & Culbertson's Milwaukee location, said his branch does not plan on hiring any 2009 graduates this year.

"We're taking a much harder look at people," Driscoll said.

Driscoll said it is important to hire only as many lawyers as a firm or branch needs.

"It's a matter of looking real hard at the need," said Driscoll. "We're not going to be as aggressive with hiring."

Driscoll said last year only two 2008 graduates were hired at the Milwaukee branch.

While things seem grim, Patel said the decline in hiring would probably end if the economy began to improve in the near future, although it is hard to predict at this point.

"I don't think there will be an immediate upswing," Patel said. "It depends on whether it's a sustained growth or sort of momentary."