I did some follow-up research ...
Based on NALP informtion from the 2001 recruitment season, which was impacted by a comparable economic downturn, BIGLAW recruitment indeed dropped, but not significantly. (http://www.nalp.org/content/index.php?pid=190
- 23.9% of law schools reported a 5-12% decrease in the number of employers on campus
- 24.6% of law schools reported a decrease in excess of 12%
- Overall, 60% of law schools reported a decrease in OCI firms
- Interviews resulting in an offer dropped from 62.6% in 2000 to 50.2% in 2001
- Offers accepted went up from 31% in 2000 to 35% in 2001.
NALP summary: "(a) fewer students are receiving an offer from their summer employer and that, among those that do, more are likely to accept, and that (b) fewer callback interviews are resulting in an offer and that the acceptance rate to these offers is higher."
It's not the end of the world, but BIGLAW won't likely dig as deep into the 2L class as they did last year. My CSO office said the difference will be felt most among students in the "margin" who were somewhat competitive for BIGLAW interviews last year (40-50th percentile), but will be much less competitive this year.
It doesn't end there...
Among summer associates, the number receiving offers dropped from 89.7% in 2000 to 82.9% in 2001. The number accepting those offers rose from 65.8% in 2000 to 72.3% in 2001.