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The practice of law is ever-evolving. Laws are continually being amended, new deal structures pop up seemingly every day and law practice is becoming increasingly more international and more complex. Bar associations have long recognized this aspect of the law, and many have responded by creating continuing education requirements to ensure their members are getting the consistent training they need to practice effectively. In addition, many legal employers have offered supplemental training programs to keep their lawyers abreast of the latest legal trends. Law firms, in particular, have been at the forefront of this training phenomenon. The legal profession has changed dramatically over the past 15 years, and those changes have affected law firms most of all. Firms have become increasingly aware of the importance of training both for recruits at an incoming associate level and for lateral recruits. Training programs have become a key differentiating factor for recruits deciding on a firm, because of the importance training will have for their career development. In addition, many law firms have grown substantially, both in numbers and in office locations. As the practice and business of law has grown more complex, law firms have recognized the need to train their associates to ensure that they are equipped to handle the challenges of being a lawyer at a modern firm. The importance of training legal recruits from the beginning can’t be stressed enough. The transition from law school to law firm can be a difficult one for some associates. However, a good training program during an associate’s summer internship and at the outset of an associate’s first year at the firm can alleviate some of those growing pains. A training program for junior associates should give them a taste of what they might expect during their first few years at the firm. They should receive some practice-skills training, such as mock trials, deposition practice and mock transactions. That way, when they are given their first major projects, the associates will feel confident in their abilities to handle the work. In addition, they should be given some training about the firm itself. Even though they are years away from partnership, it is never too early to start educating associates about the inner workings of the firm. It is always a good idea to give associates a glimpse of what lies ahead. The more associates know about concepts such as client relationships, business development and the firm’s leadership and committee structures, the more involved with the firm they will feel. Some firms have created separate summer associate and first-year associate “academies,” or multiday training sessions in which all of the firm’s summer and first-year associates get together to be introduced to the firm and the practice of law. For many associates, these academies are their first real exposure to the firm. The academies can create important camaraderie for the associates in attendance with the rest of their “class year” at the firm. Training is just as important for mid-level and senior associates as it is for new associates. For a training program to be truly worthwhile, it needs to provide associates with an ongoing education that supplies them with the skills they need to be successful at various stages of their careers. It isn’t enough to train an associate when he or she first walks in the door. Training should be ongoing and should correspond with the level of that particular associate. A good training program will include continuing courses on new laws and other legal trends that will be of importance to an associate’s everyday practice. These courses can be general (e.g., ethics training), practice-specific (e.g., litigation-skills training) or more practice area-specific (e.g., a mergers and acquisitions workshop). As they do for the junior associates, the best law firm training programs will include academies for midlevel and senior associates. Often these programs are extensions of the academies that the associates attended earlier in their careers, with an emphasis on the skills and knowledge needed to be a midlevel or senior associate. Ethics training should be a recurring topic throughout an associate’s training. In a corporate environment that has been beset with ethical breakdowns over the past several years, clients, judges and prosecutors are looking more and more to law firms to provide guidance about ethical behavior. By emphasizing ethics in their training programs, law firms can ensure that the future leaders both of law firms and corporate legal departments are committed strongly to high ethical standards. New technology has made it easier to train associates on an ongoing basis. Some firms make their training sessions available online, so that associates can access these sessions at their convenience. This creates flexibility in scheduling, and allows a firm to provide past training sessions to associates who join the firm laterally and would have otherwise missed out on these training opportunities. Making these training sessions available electronically gives associates some measure of control over their own development, as they can review a program when they think that they are ready to tackle that training topic. These training academies also serve a social purpose. As law firms have grown internationally, it has become harder and harder for associates to get to know their colleagues in other offices or countries. Training sessions allow large, global law firms to bring together groups of associates from around the world in settings that will give them the chance to interact and develop lasting relationships. In addition, firms gain value from allowing their associates to spend time in different offices of the firm. This helps the associates down the road to feel connected to the firm and to know whom to turn to in a different office if a matter comes up that involves work there, whether within the United States or overseas. Mentor relationships Mentoring is an important aspect of training. Some of the best training an associate can receive will come from his or her interactions with senior attorneys who can share advice and connections. Mentoring of this sort should be ingrained in the firm’s culture. When an associate arrives at the firm, he or she should be assigned a mentor immediately, and the importance of that relationship should be strongly emphasized. Many firms assign each associate both a partner and a more senior associate as mentors. This can be an effective way to give each associate different perspectives about the firm. A good mentoring program will have some formal mentoring social activities (such as pizza lunches or small group dinners) mixed in with the informal mentoring activities done on a mentor-to-prot�g� basis. Another way to add to the education of associates is to involve them in the planning and implementation of the training program itself. Some of the best firms have associates who sit on the firms’ training committees. This gives the associates a voice in their own training. In many ways, having associates serve on firm committees is another training tool for when they become the leaders of the firm later on. Some firms assign associates to share power with partners on committees that make key management decisions-in some cases including decisions about who deserves to become a partner. In addition to having associates sit on the firm’s committees, a firm should solicit feedback from the associates participating in the training program, to ensure that the program is delivering its intended benefits. Organizers of the best law firm training programs have participants fill out surveys rating the programs as soon as they wrap up. The organizers also may gather groups of participants in roundtable sessions at a later date to receive more in-depth feedback. It is important, however, for the organizers of the training programs to heed the feedback that they receive. The associates will feel more engaged if they can see that their suggestions are taken seriously. Ultimately, for a law firm training program to be successful, the firm has to make a strong commitment to every aspect of the program. Partners and senior associates need to be encouraged to take a personal interest in the development of the more-junior associates. Firms have to commit the time and resources necessary to ensure that each and every training session is well organized and worthwhile for the associates participating. The rewards for a law firm that puts together a strong training program, and for the associate who takes advantage of it, are tremendous. A well-trained associate will feel more confident and will be better equipped to build his or her own practice. For firms, a training program is a showcase for potential recruits, because law students and lateral associates put a lot of value on being given the tools they need to succeed at their firm. Bruce P. Howard and Juli Wilson Marshall are partners at Latham & Watkins. Howard chairs the training and career enhancement committee from the firm’s office in Los Angeles; Marshall chairs the recruiting committee from the Chicago office.

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