Thursday, January 30, 2014

BigLaw partner offers advice on how to best train new lawyers

The tips are from the Careerist column in the American Lawyer and authored by Stephen Susman, the founding partner of Susman Godfrey and one of the nation's leading trial lawyers, which means his wisdom and experience are worth their weight in gold.

How to Train Junior Lawyers (Hint: Not the Big Law Way)

. . . .

. . . [S]ome law firms have established apprenticeship tracks, offering new associates sharply reduced salaries in exchange for less responsibility and more on-the-job training.

I believe law firms should take the opposite tack: Give new associates more responsibility—not less. Not only will firms recruit better candidates as a result, but it will also help junior lawyers develop their skills exponentially faster. This will also enable the firm to leverage its resources, staff cases more efficiently, and achieve better results for its clients.

This is not the typical way most big law firms operate, but it has worked effectively for us. Here are the five key ways we approach associate development, starting from their first year:

  • Send them to court!  Our firm has a rule: If you go to court, you get to stand up. And if you write it, you get to speak it in court. New associates like that.
    Staff your cases leanly. Staffing cases leanly and efficiently translates into greater opportunities for new attorneys.
  • Give them a vote. Our “one lawyer, one vote” policy gives the firm’s newest associate an equal voice—and an equal vote—with the most senior partner.
  • Open up the books. By adopting a policy of financial transparency, firms can help their new associates gain valuable insight into negotiating fee agreements and other important business aspects of the profession.
  • Show them the fun. I love being a trial attorney. I don’t know of anything I’d love to do more. And if you convey that enthusiasm, new associates will more likely find that being a trial attorney and practicing law can be a lot of fun.
Continue reading here.

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