With its newest talent development program, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is aiming to get young lawyers better connected with their colleagues across the globe.

The firm has launched a short-term travel program that allows associates and counsel at the third-year level and above to spend time in other offices. The “Akin JUMP!” initiative came straight from the firm’s young lawyers—it was developed by midlevel associates at a hackathon earlier this year.

Each participant will be allowed to “jump” from their main office to another Akin Gump location, where they will have a sponsor in the office, and the firm will cover their travel expenses. They will all be required to submit proposals spelling out the business case for their visits, most of which will last one to two weeks, the firm said.

The program was announced Dec. 19, and associates and counsel will be able to submit their jump proposals beginning Jan. 2. According to hiring partner David Botter, the firm will limit the program to 25 jumps per year so there aren’t too many lawyers traveling outside their main offices at any given time.

David H. Botter, partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Botter said the program will be especially useful for lawyers who work in practices spread across multiple offices, as well as for those who work with clients in other cities.

“People have done this somewhat on an ad hoc basis and have found it to be very useful, getting to spend time with people they’re working with across a computer or a phone constantly,” Botter said. “For the midlevel associate who is looking to take their career to the next level, it’s a great opportunity.”

He said the program is limited to third-years and above because it seemed unlikely to be as effective for newer associates. But the intent is for the program to be useful to as many lawyers as possible, he said.

The proposals that led to Akin JUMP! were derived from two of the three winning ideas from the firm’s most recent hackathon, which was part of its annual training and development program for fourth-year associates. The third winning proposal—10 weeks of paid parental leave for all parents—was also implemented this year, Botter said.

Hackathons have become an increasingly popular tool in the legal industry for seeking broad-based input for law firm innovation. In February of this year, numerous legal industry players including law firms hosted such events in 40 cities across the globe, as part of the Global Legal Hackathon.

Diversity Lab has also begun hosting its own hackathons to tackle diversity and inclusion issues in the legal industry, the first of which led to the development of the Mansfield Rule, which has now been adopted by a number of firms.

And individual firms have held their own hackathon events. Bryan Cave held a software development hackathon as part of its Bryan Cave Business Academy several years ago. Midwestern midsize firm Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard held an “Idea-a-Thon” last year that led to changes in the firm’s associate compensation program, including a vacation credit for billable hours and other new benefits that young lawyers proposed.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton recently launched an app that allows associates to request an informal feedback session with senior lawyers. The app, called ClearyLoop, was developed by associates at a hackathon earlier this year.


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