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2 New Approaches to Training Associates: Which is Better?

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Late last year, at least one BigLaw firm announced that it was reconsidering the traditional training model for associates, at least in part. We were pretty keen on the idea of more training, less pay, and less billable hours.

Earlier this week, a founding partner of a 100-attorney litigation boutique took to the blawgosphere to explain how his firm trains associates. Hint: it's also a significant departure from the traditional BigLaw model. Our favorite part is the suggestion that young litigators should actually litigate.

So which system is better? And do they beat the traditional BigLaw sweatshop model?

Greenberg Traurig: Residencies or Apprenticeships

Clients are miffed with on-the-job training for $160,000 per year associates with no practical skills, especially when that training consists of doc review, shadowing senior attorneys, and other tasks that don't advance the case?

Here's GT's solution: the residency.

Less hours. Less pay. But up to one-third of the associate's hours can be spent on training and professional development. After a year, the associate either gets hitched to the partnership track, or derailed onto the career associate or "of counsel" line.

Susman Godfrey: Let Lawyers be Lawyers

Stephen Susman himself guest-posted on The Careerist, describing how his firm's model differs from that of BigLaw. He notes that instead of the GT residency model, where associates have less responsibility, his firm gives them more.

How so? A few of our favorites include:

  • Sending them to court. ("If you go to court, you get to stand up. And if you write it, you get to speak it in court.")
  • Staff cases leanly. (No shadowing. Young lawyers actually do things, like take depositions.)
  • Heard and seen. (His 100-person firm has a "one lawyer, one vote" policy for everything, including taking cases. Newbie associate counts as much as Susman himself.)

There's a lot more to the plan, and if you run a law firm, or are seeking a litigation gig, it's really worth the read.

Who Wins?

Well, in both models, the new associate wins. Traditional BigLaw associateships have been criticized by both clients (who are billed for the associates' non-contribution to the case) and the associates themselves (who work in doc review sweatshops or spend more time admiring the work of others than actually practicing law).

We're always in favor of disruption, but what do you think? Residencies, Susman's Model, or Traditional BigLaw -- which is best? Let us hear your thoughts on Facebook.

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