Law Firm Associate Residency Programs

The ABAJournal reported on a new model of associate training that some big name law firms are testing.

"One option being tried by Greenberg Traurig is a new residency program for associates who aren’t recruited in traditional on-campus interviews. The positions last for a year and pay less, but new lawyers in the program can spend up to a third of their billable hours in training. At the end of the trial period, the residency associates may have to leave the firm, may become a regular associate, or may become a 'practice group attorney,' a new position for nonshareholder lawyers."

"Another firm, Duval & Stachenfeld, began its “Opportunity Associate Program” 11 years ago. Associates in this program are paid $70,000 during a nine-month probationary period. If they do well, they become either a 'principal associate' on the partnership track or they join the 'alternative track program.'"

This just might be the way to go. As the old model of learning theory in law school and getting hands-on mentoring at a law firm fades, these residency programs could make up the difference in learning. As law schools continue to provide more practical training and increasingly require a clinical requirement to graduate,  law students are starting to graduate with the necessary skills that law firms have criticized were previously lacking. This type of residency program at law firms will help to build upon the skills that are taught in law school and provide the necessary training to practice law. This means that new and recent graduates will be more practice ready than ever.

The residency programs would also alleviate the issue with unpaid interns. Many firms hire unpaid interns, but I suspect that many of these interns do not get the requisite training that is required of an unpaid position. With these training programs, the residency associate would get paid a decent salary, get substantial training, and "law firms could [even] 'sweeten the deal' with loan repayment assistance."

Sounds like a winning situation all around.


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