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Job Deferrals: Law Students Use Time to Hone Skills, See World

It’s summer time and the living is easy, right?  Well, for the Class of 2009, these are trying times.  For many who accepted full-time employment at law firms both near and far, spring was filled with anxiety as the blogs reported deferred start dates and salary cuts on an almost hourly basis.  As a sign of the times, our career services office huddled with many who anxiously awaited news about their employment.  We entertained questions like “should I sign a new lease for a bigger apartment?” or “what does it mean if the firm laid off half of the people in the department that I have been assigned to?”

Finally, the announcements came.  For some, it was a start date deferred to January, then ultimately a deferral until fall 2010.  For others, nothing; they will begin in September 2009 as planned.  For first and second year students the economic downturn means shortened summer associate programs, eight to 10 weeks instead of 12; and in the public sector budgets for summer clerks have become more limited than ever.  In fact the College of Law Summer Public Interest Fellowship (SPIF) Fund awarded over 90 fellowships to students working in the public sector on an unpaid basis this summer. 

Those graduates who found time on their hands did not let the grass grow under their feet.  One 2009 graduate, deferred by Clifford Chance, is considering mission work in Africa or working in South America. Another graduate, who accepted employment at Shearman & Sterling, reportedly will use his deferral to live in Russia to brush up on his Russian.  For some, the adventure will be stateside.  Indeed, there are many initiatives throughout the country to coordinate the surplus of entry-level talent created by law firm deferrals.  For instance, Ohio created the Public Service Fellows program, which allows graduates to volunteer at one of Ohio’s legal services organizations from August to December this year.  Nationally, the National Association for Law Placement’s (NALP) PSJD website is serving as a clearinghouse for public interest organizations to post notices about their willingness to place law firm associates. A variety of opportunities are available specifically for deferred associates. And in the midst of it all, fall recruiting season is less than eight weeks away; though highly anticipated, it may bring fewer summer associate positions. Law students are encouraged to look at all avenues and opportunities to continue to hone their skills.   And the Center for Professional Development will continue to strategize with them as they navigate these trying times.

--Assistant Dean Mina Jones Jefferson