X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Mississippi exports include William Faulkner, Elvis Presley and the Delta blues. But when it comes to importing graduates of top law schools to its largest firms, the state has a tougher marketing challenge. Luther Munford of the Jackson, Miss., office of New Orleans’ 228-lawyer Phelps Dunbar thinks he’s found a solution: recruiting young lawyers who don’t necessarily want to be lawyers. Here’s Munford’s thinking. If the local firms can’t match New York and Los Angeles salaries — and clearly they can’t, and won’t — then rather than try to compete for career-track lawyers from the top schools, he’ll borrow the hotshots for just a couple years. A program he started in January targets former federal court clerks who intend to teach law — but who can be convinced first to spend a couple of years practicing appellate law in Jackson. Munford is a Mississippi native who has nothing to apologize for in the r�sum�-building game. He attended the University of Virginia School of Law before clerking for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. His recruiting idea was conceived at a reunion for fellow clerks in the mid-’90s. “I was talking to a former clerk who was teaching legal writing so that she would have time to publish,” Munford recalls. The clerk wanted to teach law and needed published work to boost her credentials. “It occurred to me that my firm would pay more than a legal writing job, and if we could carve out some time for associates to write, maybe we could attract someone like that,” says Munford. Soon after the Blackmun reunion, Munford hired Christopher Green, a Yale Law School grad who was clerking for Judge Rhesa Barksdale at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He, too, aspired to teach, but wanted practical experience before returning to academia. “I was happy that I was able to hit the ground running in terms of legal issues,” says Green, who is now pursuing his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Green’s performance confirmed Munford’s hunch. So Munford launched the program, dubbed “Practice Before You Teach,” offering two appellate law clerks a reduced workload (1,500 billable hours a year) for a salary of at least $75,000 plus bonus, depending on the person’s experience and ability. Phelps Dunbar expects these associates to publish one or two scholarly articles a year. Does the program make sense for other firms? “It is not without a certain number of risks,” says Tulane Law School Dean Lawrence Ponoroff. “They are bringing in people whose attention is going to be distracted from the practice. They are coming in with the expectation that they are going to be short-timers.” Managing partner Rick Bass acknowledges that in most cases associates don’t add value to a firm until their third or fourth year. But appellate work, he insists, is different. “I think that what lawyers straight out of law school are best qualified to do — especially if they’ve had a clerkship — is appellate work. They have strong research and writing skills.” But how does a firm improve its attractiveness to potential recruits by hiring people who don’t intend to stay, and who most definitely won’t be rainmakers? Bass says that the program will infuse the firm with high-quality (if short-term) lawyers. It also may increase the firm’s visibility and seed law schools with Phelps Dunbar alumni. Munford focuses on creating what he calls “a brain drain to Mississippi.” Their appellate briefs may not rival Faulkner’s work, but it’s a start.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.