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On television, across corporate America, even in health clubs — boot camps are all the rage. Last August, Washington, D.C.’s Howrey Simon Arnold & White announced plans to replace its traditional summer associate program with a shorter, training-intensive session dubbed — what else? — “Howrey Bootcamp.” The firm’s concept has sparked curiosity and skepticism among area lawyers. Now, with the first class of 48 recruits set to arrive in mid-May, Howrey’s heavily hyped program is about to be put to the test. The redesigned summer session lasts only four weeks, rather than the usual 10 to 12 weeks. Summer associates will spend the first half of the compressed program working in one of Howrey’s six U.S. offices. On June 3, the entire class will converge at the Xerox Training and Conference Center in Leesburg, Va., for a two-week crash course in litigation skills such as interviewing clients, taking depositions, defending discovery requests, handling government investigations, examining witnesses, and courtroom arguments. The final three days are devoted to a mock trial. “We took a long look at the needs of law students and the needs of our firm. Howrey Bootcamp is our answer to both groups,” says firm chairman Robert Ruyak. Ruyak hopes that taking a different approach to the summer will set Howrey apart from the hundreds of other firms recruiting on law school campuses. By targeting students interested in litigation and eager for trial training, firm leaders also expect to improve retention, landing a class of new associates well-suited to the firm’s litigation-driven culture. “We frankly don’t have that much difficulty attracting first-years. The real test is how many people you can retain until their fourth or fifth year,” says partner Edward Han, vice chairman of Howrey’s recruiting committee. So far, Han says, the changes have gone over well. Howrey received approximately 450 applications to its summer program from 97 different law schools, a first-year figure that even competitors find impressive, considering that most firms do not require applications at all. “The normal application process is just a r�sum� drop. In boot camp, people had to be proactive,” Han says. “We thought it was extraordinary we got 450 people to go online to fill out an application, including an essay question.” Uncertain of what their acceptance rate would be with the brand-new program, Howrey admitted students on a rolling basis. The firm landed their target of 48 summer associates after extending about 100 offers. The 21 summer associates who will spend time in Howrey’s Washington office include several students from schools where the firm has not traditionally recruited, such as the University of Colorado, the University of Utah, and the University of Miami. Firmwide, summers hail from law schools at Duke University, Georgetown University, Cornell University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Boston College. Only 15 of the 48 incoming summer associates are women. “I wish that was a higher number. We got a lot of women applicants, but more women turned us down than men,” says Ruyak. At least a few students turned down Howrey because they had trouble finding a home for the second half of the summer. Many premier firms refuse to accept candidates who are unable to join their program at the start of the summer. “For the most part, we were able to work it out,” says hiring partner Richard Ripley. “We took the position that our summers will be out by June 15. That’s only one week after Stanford or University of Chicago finishes with exams,” he adds. In a way, the program is not as dramatic a departure from tradition as it seems. For the past several years, trial training has been a core element of Howrey’s summer associate program. Instead of two solid weeks, however, every Thursday of the summer session would be devoted to seminars and practical exercises, culminating in a mock trial. The training program, called “First Chair,” consistently received high marks from participants. According to Han, Ruyak came to the recruiting committee approximately a year ago and said, “Why are we doing all this other stuff?” The exchange led to a re-evaluation of the summer program that ended with the creation of the boot camp. Initially, partners hoped shortening the summer program and eliminating some of the expensive outings might recover part of the cost associated with last year’s dramatic salary increases, but Ruyak says the prospect now seems unlikely. Each summer associate is paid $12,000 for the four-week program. By comparison, other local firms pay students about $20,000 for a two- to three-month stint. Still, Ruyak says, the expense of flying in and housing summer associates and firm lawyers from Texas and California to participate in the boot camp will be a significant expense. In addition, summer associates will not perform any billable work, as they have in years past. “We’re hoping the cost will be about the same as summer programs have been in the past,” Ruyak says. LOWER RATE OF RETURN Just what the return on that investment will be remains to be seen. Most law firms religiously track recruiting statistics, plotting how many summer offers will lead to the targeted number of new attorneys the following fall. It’s an imprecise science at best, but the length of time a student spends at a firm tends to dramatically impact his or her likelihood of returning full time. Skeptics wonder whether four weeks — just two of which are spent in a law firm environment — are enough time for either students or a firm to discover whether they have found a good fit. “How do you instill loyalty or a sense of firm values in four weeks?” asks one partner who runs the summer associate program at a large D.C. firm. Howrey partners know that nearly every law student will spend the remainder of their summer at another firm and likely emerge with at least two job offers. So Han says the firm anticipates a lower return rate than in previous years, when summer associates spent more time at the firm. “The real test is not how many people accept [our] offers, but how many people who accept offers remain at the firm. This is about retention,” he says. He adds that the boot camp program, though short, will provide summer associates with more access to firm lawyers than a traditional summer schedule. Nearly 100 partners from across the country are scheduled to attend some portion of boot camp to make presentations, coach teams of associates, or evaluate performance. “When they first presented the idea of boot camp, people were concerned about only having four weeks at the firm. I thought they sold the concept by stressing that there would be a lot of direct contact with partners,” says Oral Pottinger, a third-year night student at Georgetown University Law School who was part of Howrey’s summer class last year and will return for boot camp this year. Among the senior partners coaching segments of the program are Ruyak; John Lynch, head of Howrey’s intellectual property practice; James Rill, former Justice antitrust chief under the elder President Bush; and trial attorney Edward Henneberry, counsel to the H.J. Heinz Co. in its attempted acquisition of the Milnot Holding Corp., whose brands include Beech-Nut baby food. “These partners are going to be working with the students day in and day out. That interaction is something no student in the country is going to get from another firm our size,” Ripley says. “That’s what I think is exciting,” he adds. “And when I talked to law students from across the country, that’s what lit their eyes up.”

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