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Over a decade ago, Howrey & Simon made marketing history when it hired an advertising agency to polish its image. The campaign’s tagline — “In Court Every Day” — put the intellectual property and antitrust firm on the map virtually overnight. Now, with reality-based TV programs all the rage, it is not surprising that partners at Howrey Simon Arnold & White have found a way to capitalize on the trend. In August, the Washington, D.C.-based firm unveiled its answer to “Survivor”: a new summer program that purports to scrap the profligacy of traditional firms in favor of a high-intensity “boot camp.” The program divides the summer associates’ time between a revved-up mock trial, staffed by Howrey’s top litigators, and a two-week stint in one of the firm’s offices. The mock trial, which will be held at an offsite conference center, has clerks rising at 7 a.m. for breakfast and a “morning briefing” and returning to their rooms at 7:30 p.m. — leaving ample time for the evening’s homework assignments. Howrey claims that by showing its summers what the practice is really about, it will weed out the faint of heart and stem its attrition rate. “The students who choose this program will have a belief that litigation gets their juices flowing,” says hiring partner Richard Ripley. “That’s a big part of finding a fit between our firm and our lawyers.” Since its announcement, Howrey’s boot camp has met with skepticism on several fronts. Most often, critics have scoffed at the notion that rational, self-interested law students will abandon their near-legendary perks to spend 12-hour days taking depositions and eating cafeteria food. Since students already know that they’ll be miserable after graduation, the argument goes, they’ll take advantage of the high life while they have the chance. Logical enough. But some disagree that what Howrey is offering represents reality versus the rest of the world’s fantasy. “The boot camp takes summers out of the office, and that’s a mistake,” says Karen Rose, a University of Michigan Law School student who spent her summer in Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy’s New York office. “[Howrey] says the program is more realistic in terms of hours and intensity, but that’s only part of the picture. You choose a firm based on the experience of working in its office, based on the people you meet there and the work you’re given.” Rose’s concerns underscore the irony of Howrey’s experiment: While the firm is right that law students want a “real” work experience, the boot camp itself is remarkably unrealistic. In fact, to both students and attorneys, Howrey’s program omits the most enduring truth in the life of a lawyer: the daily grind. “Part of realism is exposure to real deals on an ongoing basis, doing work assignments where your product will actually be used,” says Stephen Fishbein, hiring partner at Shearman & Sterling. “When summers talk about their experience, they’ll mention the boat cruise, but what they’ll really emphasize are the transactions they worked on.” Howrey — which consulted with students at four law schools — was aware of these concerns when it designed the boot camp, but went ahead with it anyway. “If you know us, you know we’re not afraid to take risks,” says Ripley. Be that as it may, the firm hedged its bets. Boot camp participants will receive a $12,000 stipend — $600 per week more than salaries typical at large law firms — and will be encouraged to split their summers. “A sharp student will see this as an opportunity,” says Floyd Nation, a partner in the firm’s Houston office. “He can get the training and still go off and party for 10 weeks.” Considering the generous compensation, the firm should have little trouble filling the 48 openings in next year’s program, notwithstanding concerns about its realism. “A lot of people work to make the money,” says Nation. “With this program, they’re not giving that up.” In the meantime, Howrey has once again recast itself as an iconoclastic, no-nonsense litigation enterprise — one that means business when it comes to training lawyers. Prior to announcing the program, Howrey put its 10-member marketing staff, the public relations firm of Levick Strategic Communications, and a $250,000 marketing budget to work. The goal: informing clients and law students how Howrey intends “to change the way law firms recruit,” according to Terry Isner, the firm’s in-house creative director. Isner — who came to the firm in part for its innovative marketing strategies — created three ads, a poster, two promotional folders (one for the media, one for law school recruiting offices) and a Web site ( www.howrey.com/bootcamp) to promote the boot camp. One of his ads features grimacing (but well-dressed) law students banding together in a grueling tug-of-war; another shows them lined up single-file, in underwear, awaiting their Howrey “uniform.” The ads’ text emphasizes the “choice” that law students now face, between the “endless research memos” and “weekly beer parties” of a traditional firm as against Howrey’s program — “what the practice of law is really about.” Since August, Howrey has placed the ads in legal publications from Texas Lawyerto California Law Business(and, yes, The American Lawyer). Isner estimates that the boot camp will halve the cost of the summer program, even with the marketing budget. And that doesn’t include free nationwide publicity in The New York Times, New York Law Journaland, now, The American Lawyer. How’s that for reality?

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