One thing I have noticed with most law firms is that they suffer from a case of “WW____D” (“What Would “fill in the blank with your favorite AmLaw 50 firm” Do).

When Gunderson increased associate salaries to $145,000 in 2000, I remember my boutique law firm waiting around to see what “so-and-so” decided to do (we ended up matching the $145,000).

The same thing happened when Simpson Thacher raised first year salaries to $160,000 in 2007. It was all over for the California firms when Quinn Emmanuel opened up their wallets to match.

When White & Case openly laid off attorneys in November 2008, it quickly provided cover for other firms to follow suit. And, boy, did they ever. So much so that Law Shucks was set up to just track law firm layoffs.

And there have been so many deferrals of first year associates of late; it’s just old news when the latest firm joins the fray.

But now we’re starting to see a new law firm “wave:” cancellations of summer programs and on-campus interviews (OCI).

Morgan Lewis, which announced its decision last week, was quickly joined by other firms over the past few days, including Ballard Spahr, Thompson Hine and Squire Sanders, “Above the Law” reported. Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe has said that it would delay its on-campus interviewing until early next year in order to first see how many offers it gives to the 2009 summer class. Orrick said it would make some of those offers good for 2012. And now Weil Gotshal & Manges has followed suit, offering incentives for current summers to take a 2012 start date, according to reports from The Legal Intelligencer’s sister publication, the “Am Law Daily” blog.

Changing or canceling summer programs is a growing trend law school leaders have said they hoped wouldn’t catch on.

So riddle me this, if this wave continues, and we get to the point where there are few, if any, summer programs, how will the future’s “youngest and brightest” new lawyers find a job at a top-notch law firm? Let alone pick up the “on the job” skills that they don’t teach you in law school?

I will go back to law firm internship programs being a well-rounded solution. Okay, a young associate will ONLY make $100,000 per year upon graduation, but even here in Los Angeles that’s enough for a really nice apartment in Marina del Rey, student loan payments, and the monthly lease on a BMW 3-series.

In return, the young associate will gain on-the-job training, partner mentorship, client face-time, the ability to “sit in” on depositions and trials, heightened job satisfaction and much, much more.