Thursday, January 7, 2010

When it comes to pay, firms move away from lockstep and consider instead associate's skills

That's the story being reported today in the online ABA Journal blog.  The story notes that schools which place more emphasis on skills training provide a greater advantage to students in today's tough job market.  Although that's hardly an earth-shattering revelation, it's still worth mentioning:

Associate level distinctions and compensation based on class year, a standard at lockstep firms, are quickly being eliminated as more law firms move toward classifying lawyers by skill sets and career tracks.

As associates progress, they will be put into “buckets” or skill categories at firms more focused on advancing lawyers based on abilities rather than class year, predicts one legal recruiter.

“Firms are going to focus on what lawyers can actually do as opposed to what they should be doing at a particular level, class year or school they are coming from,” Beth Woods, managing director at legal recruiter Major Lindsey & Africa, told the ABA Journal.

While the transition is good news for industry experts opposed to the lockstep model and clients unhappy with high billable rates for unskilled associates, Woods cautions that change won’t happen overnight.

“Firms are loath and slow to change, and the ones at the top will still look at school ranks and grades,” Woods says. “But there will be opportunities at the middle tier for lawyers that are selling on a practical level to really succeed.”

Also, even though some firms have cut starting salaries, Woods says associates at firms that have adapted new training models may be more marketable and ultimately have greater earning potential. The same distinction may also give an advantage to law students at schools that offer practical training outside the classroom.

You can read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.


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