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As a summer associate, 28-year-old Evan Jowers dined at the Gotham Bar and Grill, went whitewater rafting on the Delaware River and saw “The Lion King,” all on Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft’s dime. While Jowers also did legal work, billing around 150 hours per month, he, like his peers, admitted that the perks are a big plus to summering at a large New York firm. So his reaction was mainly puzzlement when he heard that one firm, Washington, D.C.’s Howrey Simon Arnold & White, is planning to do away with the traditional summer program next year and replace it with four weeks of “boot camp.” “I just don’t see why I would put myself through something that is worse than what other firms are offering,” said Jowers, who is about to enter his third year at Harvard Law School. Not surprisingly, Howrey does not see its boot camp as “worse” than other summer regimes. The firm is touting the program, during which students will spend two weeks in one of Howrey’s four offices and two weeks working 12-hour days on a mock trial, as providing in-depth training as well as a more realistic view of a lawyer’s life than traditional summer programs. Howrey also hopes the boot camp will decrease attrition in the long run, because it should attract only students who are truly interested in litigation and because it will be a “bonding and morale-building experience,” according to hiring partner Richard Ripley. In fact, said Ripley, the firm is pinning its hopes on boot camp so much that it plans to announce a similar program for associates later this month. Next summer, Howrey intends to hire 48 associates, at a salary of $12,000 for the month-long program. Since the program only lasts four weeks, Howrey expects to save $700,000, which will be used to develop comparable programs for associates. Ripley said the move was partly driven by clients, who did not want to pay for what they saw as extravagant summer programs. “They see the high salaries and the wining and the dining and don’t think it gives them a realistic view.” In New York, while some lawyers were intrigued by Howrey’s plan, many were skeptical that it would actually lead to less attrition. For one thing, few law students are seduced into believing they would have the same kind of firm lifestyle after graduation as during the summer. “I don’t think anyone here is stupid enough to think that when you come back for real, this is what it will be like,” said Jowers. “We’re smart people and we know that there aren’t going to be nice lunches once or twice a week and the like,” agreed Brian Fischer, 23, who also spent the summer at Cadwalader. Fischer, however, did say that the Howrey program could be useful “if maybe you’re undecided about whether you want to go into litigation.” More significantly, many say that New York firms already give summer associates real-life legal assignments, even if the associates work shorter total hours on them. “The work portion of our program gives an extremely realistic view of what it’s like to practice at the firm,” said Mel Immergut, chairman of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. “Virtually every one of our summer associates goes through extremely intense periods of work.” Immergut added that one of the goals of the summer program was to expose associates to as many types of practices as possible. Joshua Rubenstein, managing partner at Rosenman & Colin, likewise said that his firm tries to have summer associates do different types of work to make it easier for them to choose a practice area when the summer ends. Consultant Joel Henning of Hildebrandt International added that there has been a trend towards “reality-based summer programs” for at least the last decade. For this reason, Howrey’s program is not innovative as it might first sound. “It is false to think that it’s palpably different from other law firms,” said Henning. While Henning said the program’s mock trial component could provide valuable training, he doubts the program will have an impact on attrition. “Attrition is a very, very complex issue,” he said. Associates leave firms for many reasons, he said, including factors beyond a firm’s control, such as the appeal of the dot-coms and non-legal jobs. However, Henning added, many firms are not particularly effective at dealing with the most important ingredient within their control: how they treat their associates. “Law firms still don’t get it in terms of how to apply basic human relations towards supervising and mentoring of individuals.”

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