Getting a foot in the door at a law firm is difficult. However, for law students who can get into a summer associate program, the door opens much wider. These programs faced a grim future with the Great Recession, putting some on hiatus and shrinking class sizes at most firms to this day. The programs have become leaner, with firms using the programs as a trial run for full-time jobs by only hiring as many summer associates as they can offer first-year associate positions to. They have not become meaner, though, in the sense that often, students are paired with partners and associates to help them through the process.
While these programs were once known only for their social aspect, heads of these programs now emphasize the focus on showing participants what it is like to be a first year associate.
The competition for these positions is high as over 90 percent of participants receive a job offer for after graduation, yet most firms only accept five or fewer law students per summer. Summer associates gain a great deal from the current structure of the programs, but those who run these programs say the firms do as well through training potential attorneys and the social events that bring all members of the firm closer together.