There was a November 19, 2011, New York Times article that spoke about a large law firm that had recently initiated a class where entry level associates were being taught how to work on a corporate transaction. This was apparently newsworthy, because the focus of the article was how shocking it was that law schools generally do not teach very much about actually practicing law, and thereafter, law firms do not either. All the more interesting a topic, the article opined, because at Big Law they charge huge hourly rates for associates with no knowledge or experience.
I think the down economy has also produced a similar phenomenon when it comes to very small firms. Solo practitioners and small firms who previously couldn't afford to hire an associate have been able to do so in this market glutted with new lawyers hungry for experience. But alas, some of these firms think that they don't have the time or the inclination for very much associate training either.
Law is an apprentice profession. It always has been; it has to be. There is too much to know, with more to know all the time. Experienced lawyers have to teach new lawyers.
Think of it from the client's perspective. Let us use the plumber analogy, another apprentice profession. Would you want to pay $600 per hour for a guy just out of plumbing school to be there on your job and just stand there holding the tool box? Would you want a guy just out of plumbing school to be cutting into your main sewer line with an acetylene torch, even if he only cost you $10 per hour? No. But, as the client you SHOULD want the new plumber somewhere on your team. Entry level associates have a lot to offer.
I had dinner with a partner from a 100-attorney firm the other day, and she asked me, "How can your firm take entry level associates? Aren't they a hassle?" And I said, yes it's a lot of work, but laterals often don’t know so much anyway, or they know just enough to be dangerous!
New lawyers are an important element in the delivery of legal services in a value-driven model. And not just because they are a cheaper line-item on a client invoice. It is healthy to train someone up to your standards. And the energy and enthusiasm an entry level brings to the table are unmatched. That is -- when entry levels are closely supervised and properly trained, entry levels are an excellent choice. The Itkowitz PLLC Legal Project Management protocol builds training into every phase of the work and encourages young lawyers to think.
Labels: Ch. 18 - Apprentice Profession