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Is 'Resident at Law' Just a Fancy Term for Associate?

By Andrew Lu on August 30, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Florida lawyer recently noted the obvious -- that there are a lot of new lawyers but not a lot of law jobs. So the lawyer came up with a resident at law practice

Recent law grads can experience something similar to the residency program of medical school grads. But will it take?

Similar to the medical residency program, the resident at law program would train recent grads on the practicalities of the legal practice that you may not necessarily learn in law school, reports the ABA Journal. In addition, residents would be trained on the business side of law and hopefully develop tools to go out on their own or become more hirable.

But is a "resident at law" really just a fancy term for poorly-paid associate?

Well, it is and it isn't.

A resident at law sure does sound similar to a low-level associate at any small- to mid-sized firm. You perform basic research, learn the ins- and outs- of your practice areas, and your bosses may bill their clients for your time at a rate much higher than what you are compensated (a resident at law receives about a $4,000 a month stipend).

However, a resident at law also seems a bit different as there appears to be a much larger emphasis on training, reports the ABA Journal. Resident at law, Patrick Mize, a May 2011 graduate of the University of Florida's law school, emphasized the practical information he has learned as a resident to a trusts and estates attorney.

The other major difference between a resident at law and an associate is that there appears to be a definite end to the residency. After 18 months, the residency ends, and presumably the young law grad would have to find another job. Sounds like a less-prestigious judicial clerkship, right?

At this point, the young attorney would be faced with the same prospects as non-residents at law -- getting a job in the difficult economy. It's at this point, we will discover if the resident at law program has any real benefits such as if hiring firms seek out these former residents or if the residents have learned enough to successfully go out on their own.

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