In the past, most summer associates working at large firms felt that if they showed up at a decent hour, acted respectably and did a reasonably good job on their assignments, they were all but guaranteed an offer of permanent employment. Barring any major gaffes, summer associates were likely to snag an offer or two by the end of their second summer in law school.

No Job Offer in Hand? Then You Need a Plan

That probably won't be the case as this summer winds to a close. Summer associates likely have been walking on eggshells, trying to provide the best possible work product and to make themselves indispensable. The days of almost automatic entitlement to a permanent offer surely are over.

Given the economy and state of the legal market, many third-year law students may find themselves without an offer at the end of this summer. Firms have fewer positions to offer, and they will have to be more discriminating in their choices than in years past.

Unfortunately, 3Ls left without an offer at the end of the summer may find that additional job prospects are bleak in this down economy in which firms are laying off attorneys. If a summer associate does not receive an offer, one can only assume he will have a steep uphill battle ahead of him this coming school year. Without a significant upturn in the economy, 3Ls without offers will compete with a large mass of laid-off junior and midlevel associates, and they will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage, since new graduates will lack the practical skills that these associates have had time to cultivate.