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special to the national law journal Monica R. Brenner is manager of legal recruitment at New York’s Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. Hiring a talented, motivated group of students for a law firm’s summer program is both an expensive and laborious process. Hundreds of attorney billable hours are spent each fall interviewing students, countless administrative hours are spent evaluating candidates and determining which law students deserve offers and thousands of dollars are spent visiting campuses to wine and dine those students lucky enough to receive offers. Once the hiring process is completed, hiring partners and administrators then face a task even more daunting-planning an appropriate training program for the incoming summer associates. In a down economy such as the current one, management may be wary of spending large sums of money on law students who have not yet earned permanent offers. Without a guarantee that these students will become full-time associates, some may perceive summer associate training to be an unnecessary expense that can be eliminated without negative repercussions. What management may not realize is that even the most basic summer associate training programs can reap tremendous benefits without costing the firm tremendous sums. Planning and producing a successful training program for a summer class should not be cost-prohibitive for law firms and, with an investment of time and effort, can benefit the firm by providing them with educated, well-prepared junior associates. When planning a summer associate training program, a firm should not simply replicate an existing first-year associate training program. This is true in part because the summer associates could very well join the firm the following fall and would then participate in a duplicate training program. But, in addition, the needs of summer associates differ from those of entry-level associates. Designing a summer associate training program should start with an assessment of these needs. This can be done by asking all incoming summer associates to complete a questionnaire identifying areas in which they have received training in law school and areas in which they would like to receive training. In addition to getting information from incoming summer associates, the recruitment department should reassess training programs that were offered in previous summer programs. Each summer, recruitment staff should sit in on the summer associate training programs, thereby allowing them to evaluate each program’s effectiveness with first-hand knowledge. Summer associates should be surveyed to allow them to provide their own feedback following each training program. As the targeted audience, summer associates are in the best position to assess the relevance of programs and to offer suggestions on ways to improve individual programs. Each fall, the recruitment staff should review the feedback as they begin to prepare for the following summer program. Based on summer associate comments, some programs may be deemed unnecessary and cut from the next summer’s roster of training programs; other programs may be used again, but will need to be tweaked to make them more beneficial to their target audience. Four major bases An effective summer associate training program needs to cover at least four major areas. First, summer associates need to receive training and guidance on firm policies. Second, summer associates need training on areas that pertain directly to the law and will improve their lawyering abilities, such as writing, speaking, researching and negotiating. Third, the summer associate assignment system needs to be monitored to allow summer associates to receive interesting and varied work. Last, it is important to provide guidance in areas that some consider to be “soft skills,” such as diversity awareness, business etiquette and time management. A substantive orientation program is critical for preparing summer associates to be as efficient and knowledgeable as possible when they receive their first work assignments. Orientation can take place during a special spring orientation weekend, or during the first few days of the summer program. No matter when orientation occurs, it should include an introduction to key firm personnel. For many law students, their summer associate positions will be their first jobs in a corporate environment. Administrative department heads can best explain to the summer class each department’s responsibilities, while introducing the summer associates to many support services, which they may not have known would be available to them. Introducing summer associates to the roles and responsibilities of each administrative department will also ensure that summer associates do not ask support staff members to do something outside of their job responsibilities. For example, by meeting directly with a manager of word processing, the summer associates learn when it is appropriate to use the word processing staff and how best to make use of the services that the department has to offer. The sooner that summer associates learn how a firm operates, the more effective they will be at getting assignments done quickly and efficiently. In addition to learning the roles of a law firm’s administrative departments, summer associates should also receive an introduction to each of the firm’s practice groups. While summer associates will not necessarily be interested in all of a firm’s practice areas, the summer class should nonetheless be educated about the firm as a whole. At this early stage in their careers, summer associates remain open-minded to a variety of areas and should have the option to sample work from different departments. An interesting introduction to the specifics of what a particular department does may spark a desire in a summer associate to try an assignment in an area of law that previously seemed unappealing. Many law firms require that summer associates attend in-house continuing legal education courses offered throughout the summer in addition to the departmental overviews that are offered. Attendance at these sessions will enable summer associates to gain a more in-depth knowledge about a firm’s specialty areas, as well as introducing them to a broad range of attorneys at the firm. More in-depth training Once summer associates are acclimated to a law firm’s culture and have sufficient knowledge to make informed decisions regarding which areas of law they find appealing, a law firm should begin to introduce summer associates to legal training programs that address broader issues, such as writing, researching, negotiating and oral presentation. An in-house writing instructor can offer summer associates the opportunity to participate in workshops dedicated to drafting and revising skills. One-on-one sessions with a writing instructor will enable the summer associates to hone their writing skills even further, while also helping them to distinguish among the writing styles of particular attorneys. Firms with top-tier law libraries can offer courses on developing efficient research skills, both with books and online resources such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. Through a litigation workshop, which can be organized by a firm’s litigation attorneys, summer associates can have a fun and interactive opportunity to sharpen research skills while conducting mock trials, for example, or learning to take and defend depositions. In-house staff from corporate areas can provide useful training on a variety of topics, such as negotiating or transactional drafting skills. These training sessions will offer a strong foundation of skills that summer associates can put to use, no matter what department they ultimately join. While providing summer associates with training programs will sharpen their existing skills, it is the everyday experience working on assignments that will benefit them the most. Administrators and hiring partners need to ensure that work assignments are distributed equitably and that each summer associate is receiving a variety of assignments that allow him or her to work with a broad range of attorneys and gain a basic introduction to the type of work handled by different departments. Following the completion of any project with which a summer associate was involved, supervising attorneys should be required to complete a written evaluation form with respect to the summer associate’s performance. These evaluations should be discussed with each summer associate during a formal review, preferably at both the midpoint and end of the summer. This feedback is critical for the summer associates to learn from each experience and to improve their skills and help them succeed on future assignments. Summer associates should also begin to develop other skills, which, while not of a legal nature, will help them become better attorneys. Diversity-awareness programs will help a firm demonstrate a commitment to minority recruiting and highlight the benefits that a diverse workplace can offer. Business etiquette courses can teach not only basic skills for speaking with clients over the phone or at a dinner, but also networking skills that will enable summer associates to meet a greater number of attorneys at firm social functions. A time-management training program for summer associates will emphasize the necessity of good work habits, including organized filing systems and efficient billing methods, before the summer associates have adopted their own less productive habits. Even if the firm must hire outside consultants to conduct such sessions, the ultimate benefit to the firm from these “soft skills” programs can be substantial. Requiring summer associates to attend training programs will foster a sense of collegiality among them, while also emphasizing how seriously a firm takes its commitment to training. These seminars and programs offer additional opportunities for summer associates to get to know their classmates and to learn to work together in groups. While not the primary purpose of a summer program, these additional benefits will pay off for a firm in the long term. Summer associates often say that the camaraderie and knowledge they gain by participating in group training sessions make them feel that they are now part of a team. This sense of belonging to an organization in turn provides them with an incentive to accept a firm’s offer for an entry-level position as a full-time associate. After spending the money to recruit and train a summer associate, a law firm’s goal is for every summer associate to accept a permanent offer and justify the expense incurred on his or her behalf. Regardless of the state of the economy and the size of a summer program, law firms incur enormous expenses recruiting law students. Having already spent large sums of money on recruiting, law firms should go on to provide their summer associates with the tools necessary to succeed in the workplace. While law schools provide their students with basic academic training, and while these students arrive at law firms for their summer associate positions with a great deal of potential, they lack knowledge and experience in many key areas. It is incumbent upon the law firm to supplement law school education by providing the tools and experience necessary for the students to survive and excel in the workplace. While planning and producing a successful summer associate training program can be labor intensive for administrative personnel, it does not have to be costly in order to be effective. And by spending the time necessary to create a targeted, effective program, law firms will benefit by having educated, well-prepared junior associates who will soon start generating a return on the firm’s investment.

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