Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New First Year Associate "Perk"

The Wall Street Journal Blog ran an interesting piece this week about new law firm training requirements for first year associates.  Some firms now require associates to attend firm sponsored business education courses.  These courses are cropping up as more and more big firm clients refuse to allow first year associates to work on actual cases.  According to the blog, the new associates will “learn practical skills that many law schools don’t teach, such as creating power point presentations and computer spreadsheets” as well as “how to read balance sheets.”  While I do not dispute the value of business skills, I am surprised that mandatory first year associate training at some law firms does not focus squarely on legal writing, including legal drafting. 

When I visit with practicing lawyers and judges and ask them what they want to see in new lawyers, the answer is almost always “stronger writing skills.”  Perhaps other post-graduate, law firm sponsored training focuses on writing.  At my firm, we had ongoing first year training in both persuasive writing and legal drafting.  Other firms take different approaches.  I would be interested to know if anyone has conducted surveys or authored papers on the topic.

(dbb)

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Comments

Firms with training programs have historically offered substantial training in writing, including bringing in outside consultants. (Read business opportunity for LRW professors.) This new training responds to the almost complete deficit of business training -- important not only to transactional lawyers, but also to litigators (who need to litigate business deals gone bad and understand damages calculations).

Posted by: Tina Stark | Aug 26, 2011 6:55:18 AM

Two thoughts:

I definitely had substantial writing training in my first big firm year. But the training did not amount (at least by number of hours) to what (I think) the business training I read about in the WSJ for new associates seems to involve. Maybe this is because writing training is implicit in many big firm assignments, and business training is not. This brings me to my second point.

If such a wide business education deficit exists, should law schools do more to fill it? Should the training take the form of required courses or summer session programs? Law faculty might or might not be in a position to deliver the courses so a partnership with business schools might be appropriate. Also, should law firms look more closely at JD/MBA candidates. I don't recall that being a big topic of discussion in law firm hiring. Perhaps it should be.

Posted by: Dustin Benham | Aug 28, 2011 6:59:18 PM

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