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Howrey Simon Arnold & White’s “Bootcamp” is living up to its name. Just as the Marine Corps used Parris Island to weed out recruits who might not be able to hack it, some of the 34 law students recruited by Howrey Simon for this summer’s five-week litigation training regimen didn’t make the cut. And, as with Parris Island, the process isn’t always pretty. Washington, D.C.-based Howrey Simon started the boot camp two years ago, touting it as a more realistic view of life at the bottom of a big firm’s litigation department. This year the first three weeks of the program were pretty much like any other summer program, replete with long, expensive lunches on the firm tab and alcohol-soaked after-work social activities. The last two weeks weren’t so easy. The students were expected to toil side by side with Howrey Simon’s partners — sometimes until 2 a.m. — in preparation for a mock trial, the culminating event of the summer. The work was hard, and the food, according to one student’s reply on an internal survey, was bad. (The survey, which Howrey Simon provided a copy of, shows complaints typical of a summer program, including one about an overly tough drill sergeant of a partner. But many said that they felt motivated and would recommend the program to a friend.) After that survey was taken came the job offers. And that is what left some of the students nursing new wounds. Three summer associates who did not receive offers from Howrey Simon say that the firm gave them the impression during the program that all of the participants would be extended offers, as long as they performed adequately. “They said last year that all the summers got offers [and that] you really have to screw up not to get an offer,” says one disgruntled student who didn’t get an offer. (The offer rate last year was actually 92 percent, or 44 of the 48 recruits.) Another student says that the summer associates talked over their concerns about not getting offers with partners, at various outings. During a bus ride to a court date in Delaware, the students were told that “[Howrey] isn’t like other firms that took on too many people [for the summer].” At the end of July, partner Richard Ripley, who oversees the boot camp as Howrey Simon’s hiring chair, sent offer letters to 26, or three-fourths, of the boot camp students. Some who hadn’t yet heard from the firm were told by fellow students that offers had been made, so they called their contacts at Howrey Simon to find out what was going on. Two students say that they had difficulty reaching their partner-mentors, and that when they eventually did get their calls returned, they were perfunctorily told to call Ripley. One student, who had better luck getting through to a partner, was warned that deficient writing skills would be the stock explanation given to all the nonhires. “I was told it was because of my writing on certain projects and then that it was that I didn’t fit with the firm. It was like [Ripley] was hedging his answers,” says one student. Ripley says that he did instruct the partners and associates to direct all calls from summer associates to him and that writing was indeed a problem for some of the students who weren’t given offers. Some of those rejected, however, think that the firm couldn’t afford to hire everyone — an explanation they say they gleaned from associates inside the firm. According to Howrey Simon managing partner Robert Ruyak, that’s not the case. Ruyak says that the firm was ready to extend offers to every student but found by summer’s end that many of the students didn’t meet Howrey Simon standards. “We’re not going to give offers to people we don’t think are going to be high performers at the firm,” says Ruyak. The whole purpose of switching to the boot camp model, says Ruyak, was to identify those suited to litigation, which accounts for 75 percent of the firm’s work. Put another way, it’s a way for the firm to weed out would-be associates who would end up leaving — or being asked to leave — after two years because they lacked an aptitude for trial work. “Bootcamp is rigorous. We expect people to think on their feet,” says Ruyak. So what accounts for the difference in offer rates from one year to the next? Ruyak says that this year other firms didn’t allow students who wanted to go to boot camp to split their summers between two firms. That limited the pool available to Howrey Simon. “We dug deeper into our list,” he says. Ouch. Prospective “Bootcamp” applicants, take note: Howrey Simon is looking for a few good associates.

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