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September 17, 2009 7:21 PM

Organizations Helping Deferred Associates Transition to Public Interest Placements

Posted by Matt Straquadine

As hundreds of deferred associates nationwide embark on their public service placements, a handful of professional organizations are working to help the young lawyers with the transition.

The Association of Pro Bono Counsel and NALP recently produced a free, web-based training seminar for deferred associates focusing on the differences between working in a private law firm and with a public interest organization.

"We know that a lot of the deferred associates who will do extended public interest placements probably didn't expect that this is where they would be right now," says Angela Vigil, Baker & McKenzie's director of pro bono and one of the seminar's organizers.

The two-hour program, titled "Public Interest Perspectives -- An Introductory Training for Private Attorneys in Public Interest Placements," covers a variety of points, including the kinds of clients lawyers are likely to encounter in their public service jobs, the differences in supervisory structures, and the collaborative nature of public interest work.

The Webinar currently is hosted (and publicly available) on the Web site of ProBono.net. (Click here to access the program.) It sits on a page built to provide deferred associates with a repository of useful information, including various resources, news items, and career tools, according to Steve Grumm, director of public service initiatives for NALP.

"Those of us who are helping to facilitate deferred associates' public interest placements want them to make a smooth transition into their new practice settings and to immerse themselves, personally and professionally, in what could be profoundly rewarding experiences," Grumm says.

It is hoped that the training session, as well as other support planned by the Association of Pro Bono Counsel and NALP, will provide some basic instruction (in areas such as motion drafting and case strategy) to many deferred associates who, with these placements, find themselves working as lawyers for the first time.

"We know that we need to help provide a bridge from law school and the bar, to practice," says Kelly Tautges, the director of pro bono at the Chicago Bar Foundation.  "So [the Webinar] discusses things like working with clients, and case management."

"We're working hard to make deferred associates' time at public interest placements as rewarding as it can be, so that they and their firms will see the value of time spent doing public interest work," says Baker & McKenzie's Vigil.  "We're hoping to take them from zero to hero as quickly as possible."

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