Mitchell Zuklie, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe chairman
Mitchell Zuklie, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe chairman (Jason Doiy)

SAN FRANCISCO — Business clients say they want their lawyers to be financially literate. So last week, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe put 40 senior associates, including 14 from the firm’s California offices, through a weeklong MBA boot camp. Developed in collaboration with The Fullbridge Program, which offers business education to a range of professionals, Orrick’s Senior Associates Academy aims to prepare its lawyers to be “trusted advisers” by better aligning them with the firm’s clients.

Orrick’s chairman Mitchell Zuklie said it’s “critically important for legal advisers to understand the business of clients,” and said the course provides the skills to do that. After last week’s sessions in San Francisco and New York City, 46 percent of the firm’s senior associates have completed the program, which involves training in leadership, persuasive communication, business strategy, financial analysis, valuation and project management. The culminating project required the participants to prepare group presentations based on an Apple case study for a panel of Orrick partners.

Several other AmLaw 100 firms, including Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Morrison & Foerster, have partnered with The Fullbridge Program to help their associates “transition in their career,” said Andrew Notaro, executive director of The Fullbridge Program. However, Orrick was the first firm to develop a curriculum that’s tailored toward the advancement of their senior associates.

While entry-level associates in Fullbridge camps are coached on how to be part of a team, the senior associates at Orrick are coached on “how to lead a team, assign resources to a team, how to report up and manage down,” said Notaro.

Pulling senior associates off the field for seven days is not an insignificant investment, said Orrick’s managing director of resources Siobhan Handley. It requires the associates to pick up the billable work after hours and the partners to pick up the slack.

However, Handley, who spearheaded the development of the firm’s merit-based promotion model in 2009, said the Senior Associates Academy is designed for seasoned associates that are ready to move up. “We’re looking to our senior associate population to think very strongly about what the business case is going to be for them to become partners,” she said, adding that more junior associates probably wouldn’t get as much benefit from it.

Orrick’s partners have been supportive from the onset, Handley said, and the firm plans to offer the program once a year to accommodate every senior associate interested in participating.

Contact the reporter at npierrepont@alm.com.