Summer internships give law firms a look at talent

Following a tradition it established five years ago, lawyers at the Reno office of Hale Lane hosted two dozen summer law clerks for a full-day tour of downtown courthouses.

The summer clerks, who are interning at firms throughout the area, visited with officials ranging from District Attorney Dick Gammick to U.S.Magistrate Judge Robert A.

McQuaid Jr.

They gathered for lunch at the Nevada Museum of Art, and they finished their day with cocktails at the Hale Lane office.

It's a big production, but law firms say their summer clerk programs remain a key element of their strategy to recruit new legal talent.

In the weeks after they return to law school this autumn to finish their third and final year of study, many of the summer clerks will receive letters offering them jobs after they graduate.

"It's a secure feeling if you're a third-year law student," says John Frankovich,managing partner of the Reno office of McDonald Carano Wilson, one of the firms that relies on summer clerks.

And it's a secure feeling as well for the law firms that have had three months to get a close look at the students who are candidates to be hired in a few months.

In fact,many firms consider performance during a summer clerk program to be the single best indicator whether to make a job offer to a young lawyer, says N.

Patrick Flanagan, a shareholder in Hale Lane.

Medium-sized and larger firms in northern Nevada typically recruit regionally,making their pitch for top students at events sponsored by law schools throughout the West throughout the school year.

"The good law firms tend to draw the better candidates," says Flanagan.

Summer clerk programs also give students a chance to decide whether the firm fits their personality.And in some instances, Flanagan says, an internship convinces students to change career paths from the practice of real estate law, for instance, to courtroom work with a public defender.

Hale, which this year hired a total of four summer clerks for its offices in Reno and Las Vegas, has developed a structured program in which a mentor ensures that the clerk has plenty of work to do and gets a variety of experiences.

At the same time, however,Hale Lane encourages everyone in the firm to work with interns in part, to gain knowledge that's useful when the firm decides who it wants to hire.

At Jones Vargas, another firm that routinely recruits summer clerks, students are exposed to everything from meeting with clients to depositions, says John Desmond, the firm's recruiting partner in Reno.

"They do a lot of research and writing," Desmond says."We try to give them a broad exposure to different areas of the law.

It's invaluable a great hands-on experience." While Jones Vargas looks to its summer program largely as a recruiting tool, Desmond says the firm also has high-minded motives.

"We think," he says,"that it's a good investment in the legal community."

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