According to a report compiled by NU, SA offers for 2009 summer were down 36%, though it was felt almost wholly by non-T14 folks. I remember GW and W&M folks talking about how bad OCI was in 2008 though.
The more I think about it, the more the current state of affairs makes sense. Think about the pipeline model. Firms want a certain number of people starting in 2009, 2010, 2011, etc. When faced with a drop in demand, they want to cut the flow of the pipeline, but not to zero because a bubble in the pipeline would mean a lack of experienced mid-levels down the road. So what did they do when they realized their C/O 2009 - C/O 2011 needed to be much smaller, but only after they'd already hired too many people at 2007 and 2008 OCI? They could've no-offered a bunch of 2008 and 2009 summer associates, but would that have made economic sense? Aside from the hit to their reputation, there is the fact that those SAs are are a sunk cost --- you've already spent money recruiting them and training them, why no-offer them and have to repeat the process with a bunch of folks in the next class? Unless you're just *really* hemorrhaging money and can't even afford a deferral...
So what they did instead was to use deferrals to spread 2 classes worth of associates over three years. As a result, C/O 2011 are the one that gets the short end of the stick. It literally costs the firms nothing to not hire them, and indeed they save a bunch of money by limiting their recruiting efforts. They have no prior relationship with them to preserve. Likely, they're only hiring at all so they can poach some top talent they would not otherwise get, which incidentally suggests that firms feel that they are economically stable enough to make such inherently forward-looking investments.
So what does this mean for the class of 2012? If the economy has definitely stabilized by this time next year (not necessarily improved dramatically, but rather it is clear that it won't get worse), then 2010 OCI could be decent. Not boom-year wonderful, but likely no worse than OCI in 2001 and 2002, where associate growth was negative overall but T14's still did reasonably well. Again, it's just the pipeline at work --- firms need a certain number of folks at various stages within the firm and it makes economic sense for them to continue hiring even if they have to force attrition at the other end of the pipeline.
* For those who wonder why hiring might be better for 2010 OCI even if the economy doesn't dramatically improve, and who are somewhat mathematically inclined, it is useful to think of hiring as being proportional not to the level of legal demand, but rather to the derivative thereof, plus some constant representing the amount of forced attrition firms are willing to use to maintain their demographic profile. The derivative of legal demand was sharply negative through 2008-2009, but unless there is further collapse will somewhat (even if marginally-so) positive through 2009-2010.