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Plenty of law schools are helping jobless graduates by paying for a year of public interest work. Washington University School of Law is extending a hand to 1Ls and 2Ls who didn’t secure summer clerkships. The school has started a summer program called Associate in Training. The six-week program is loosely modeled on law firm summer associateships, and includes attorney shadowing, networking, instruction on the business of law firms and other skills training. It appears to be the first program of its kind, said Tomea Mayer Mersmann, associate dean for strategic initiatives. “Obviously, we’d rather have our students getting trained at law firms and being paid. Unfortunately, the current employment market has made it much harder to secure a summer associate position,” said Mersmann. She noted that “significantly fewer” Washington University law students nabbed summer positions this year. “For students who weren’t able to go to firms this summer, this program is the best substitution to learn those skills.” Some area law firms have more than halved the number of summer associates they hosted in previous years, Mersmann said. Some didn’t invite back students who had clerked with them last year. The wider push among legal educators to incorporate real-world skills also played a part, Mersmann said. The pilot program is underway now with 11 students, a mix of 2Ls who did not get summer clerkships and 1Ls who want to make themselves more attractive during the fall recruiting season, she said. A handful of international LL.M. candidates are enrolled. Students earn six credits for the program, which costs $8,520, although tuition remission is available, Mersmann said. The program involves courses in litigation skills, accounting and business for lawyers, research and writing, and client development. Students are assigned mentors who are practicing attorneys. They are visting law firm visits and doing mock interviews. The school plans to offer the program next year. “Even if the job market picks up again next year — which we don’t know if it will — I think there is a need for this kind of program,” Mersmann said.

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