The economic downtown in 2008 and 2009 forced many local law firms to retool their summer associate programs—the traditional bridge to permanent employment for new law school graduates—by cutting back on the number of student they planned to hire and shortening the length of the program.

Today is a different story. Most firms said they plan to bring on roughly the same number of law students this year as they did last year, although hiring partners noted that applications are also up, making competition tough for summer programs.

Charles S. Hirsch, hiring partner for Ballard Spahr’s Baltimore office, said the number of students working there will remain the same as in 2014, with two summer associates this year.

“I think that our needs are increasing,” Mr. Hirsch said. “We had gone to having a summer program every other year, and I think this will be the first summer in a couple years where we have back-to-back summer programs.”

Summer associate hiring generally follows the broader legal market, he said.

“I think the market has been down for a while, so we get many excellent candidates,” he said.

“There are definitely fewer jobs out in the market, but my sense is it’s picking up. That’s my observation — I think we’re on an upward trajectory.”

People

Charles S. Hirsch