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Fifteen years ago, James Sandman’s first child, Joe, was born. When his wife’s three-month maternity leave ended, Sandman took a sabbatical to spend six months caring for his son. He remembers his first day back to work at Arnold & Porter as one of the worst days of his life. Today, as managing partner, Sandman wants to ensure his colleagues don’t feel the same way. Sandman has expanded parental leave and added adoption benefits. He expanded hours at Arnold & Porter’s D.C. day care center, which moved on-site right before he became managing partner, to seven days a week, from 8 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. Tuition is set at local market rates. The child-to-teacher ratio is 3-1. With capacity for 55 children, the center’s biggest problem is demand. In this year’s Midlevel Associates Survey conducted by The American Lawyer, Arnold & Porter earned the third-highest score overall. Associates especially love the firm’s family-friendly approach. They gave Arnold & Porter a rating of 4.68 in that category on a 1-to-5 scale, the highest of any firm. Fourth-year associate Joseph Ruggiero’s son and daughter come to work with him two days a week. “It feels like a home,” Ruggiero says. “I get to see [my children] on the way in, at lunch, and bring them home.” Arnold & Porter has come a long way, jumping from 81st place last year. In the 12 categories that The American Lawyer ranks, the firm did especially well on training and guidance (4.13, up from 3.1), interesting work (4.47, up from 3.5), and satisfying work (4.34, up from 3.2). On whether they plan to be at the firm in two years, the associates gave a score of 4.19, up from 2.9. The scores may have jumped this past year, but Sandman says the firm has been laying the groundwork for a long time. “It didn’t all happen in recent years,” he says. In 1999, the management committee started institutionalizing associate programs, such as mentoring. In March 2003, it hired Caren Ulrich Stacy to head a new professional development group with a staff of nine. In particular, Stacy has revamped training, making it more uniform, less at the mercy of partners’ workloads. “I remember deposition training, but not really. It was all very ad hoc, and we realize now that it can’t be,” says management committee member and antitrust partner Deborah Feinstein. Large firms especially need to institutionalize training rather than assume that it will just happen, according to Sandman. “Clients don’t want to pay to train people to do things they expect lawyers to know,” he explains. “A firm can’t dictate the cases it gets, so there’s a randomness to [on-the-job] development.” Hired to focus on legal training, Stacy says that she heard repeatedly from associates and partners alike that they needed help in their nonlegal skills as well. So she started a “core skills” curriculum in areas like writing and placing articles; supervising staff; and marketing � skills not taught in law school. In September, the firm unveiled a high-tech training center. The D.C. center has a digital white board that transcribes notes for use in future training programs. Associates in other offices can participate through a new videoconferencing system that also records programs for a video training library. “It improves the quality of experience to have a formal training process because it ensures that all associates have the skills to take on projects,” says Angela Givens, a litigation associate. Associate support does not stop with training. Arnold & Porter names assignment partners to track which associates are doing what, to avoid what Sandman calls the “random grab in the hall” assignment system. Shelby Hunt, another litigation associate, says her assignment partner “helps monitor that you’re getting the experience you need to advance.” In March, Arnold & Porter hired Kristen McManus as the firm’s full-time career development manager. McManus works confidentially with associates to map out professional goals, either within the firm or outside it. “There is a cone of silence over her office,” says Feinstein. McManus even works with partners to discuss their career plans. Givens, a fourth-year associate, says she’s felt free to discuss career plans with partners, including the possibility of leaving the firm, without fear of backlash for her openness. Arnold & Porter’s strong pro bono commitment � which earned a 4.97 on the associates survey � feeds into associate satisfaction. “I’m dying to go to trial. I love preparing for trial,” Givens says. But clients’ needs aren’t necessarily in line with her own aspirations, so she also takes on pro bono cases. In September, she argued a preliminary injunction challenging how New Yorkers elect their state supreme court justices. Arnold & Porter encourages lawyers to do at least 50 hours of pro bono work a year. Hunt, also a fourth-year, says she chose the firm specifically for its pro bono commitment. Hunt has an ongoing role in advising the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America. The one sour note on pro bono came from an anonymous respondent. “Although the firm policy is that 15 percent of your billable hours can be on pro bono matters, acceptance of that policy also varies by practice group,” he wrote. With all that, Arnold & Porter isn’t just good at developing its own associates’ careers. Ruggiero reports that because both his children are in the day care center, his wife has been able to go back to school for a degree in massage therapy. Maybe the firm could consider on-site physical therapy next. Heather Smith is a reporter at The American Lawyer , where this article appears in the October issue.

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