Sunday, September 23, 2012

More on the trend among law firms to train new associates in business skills

We reported last year that a few law firms (here and here) were sending associates to business school at considerable expense because this kind of training is now considered indispensable to success in the new normal of law practice where the competition to attract and keep clients is ferocious. The AmLaw Daily, via, is reporting that another firm has created an in-house "mini-MBA" program to appease clients who no longer want to foot the bill for associates who are "clueless" about how business actually works.  The article notes that there is a parallel trend among some law schools to offer students training in practical business skills.

For Cleary Associates, a Crash Course in Business

"Does anyone know how a zero coupon bond works?"

Blank stares from a group of three-dozen sharply dressed young attorneys provided an answer to the question being posed by professional financial trainer Marisa Mackey at the New York offices of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton on September 12.

The group of new associates had joined the firm just three days earlier, but was already being asked to recall how to calculate the time value of money and internal rates of return.

Fortunately, no clients were being billed as the group spent the next few hours muddling through a lesson plan that was part of a new, two-week training program Cleary calls its "mini-MBA."

Cleary partner Michael Ryan says that between the money spent developing the program and the billable hours lost by having 116 first-year associates from New York and Washington, D.C., sit in a room sans BlackBerrys for 10 work days, the initiative is costing the firm an estimated $2.5 million. "This was not entirely uncontroversial within our firm," he says. "The first reaction was to say, '$2.5 million? What are we getting for it? Yes, it’s a great idea, but . . .' "

Ryan, a New York–based corporate lawyer, helped persuade the dissenters that the program is indeed worthwhile. The agenda—to be repeated two more times this year as new batches of associates arrive—includes a mix of speakers and training sessions led by Cleary attorneys and staff; firm clients at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and investment firm TPG; professors, economists, and consultants; and finance-industry trainers from Adkins Matchett & Toy and Training the Street. Topics covered range from basic tax and accounting principles to analyzing recent examples of securities fraud and financial meltdowns.
"It sort of got started because clients are increasingly annoyed about the fact that in their view, they are paying hundreds of dollars an hour to train first-years who are really liberal arts grads who don’t have a clue," says Ryan, who adds that "there’s an element of fairness to what they’re saying. . . . They don’t necessarily arrive having this deeply ingrained, intuitive sense of how business works."

Continue reading here.


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