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May 26, 2010 5:45 PM

The Careerist: Associate Deferral Programs a Success, Report Concludes

Posted by Vivia Chen

Farming out deferred associates to work in public interest organizations during the economic downturn was a smashing success--at least that's my take after reading the Pro Bono Institute's just released report on the subject. (Download the report here.)

Esther Lardent, PBI's president, says, "The result was overwhelmingly positive," for the firms and nonprofits. Before the program got under way, "there was a huge concern whether this would work," she says. There were worries, she adds, that the associates might not fit into the nonprofit culture and have difficulties "adjusting to nonposh offices." Another concern, she adds, was whether the presence of the associates at the nonprofits "would create issues with long-term staff and [indigent] clients."

As the report finds, those weren't issues. In fact, over 97 percent of the public interest organizations said they would gladly roll out the welcome mat for associates again.

It strikes me as a no-brainer that this program would be a success. The indigent benefited, as did understaffed public interest organizations--not to mention the firms that got some respite from having to pay full salaries to a bunch of thumb-Tweeting, Facebooking associates during the slow economy.

And, of course, the deferred associates loved the experience. Who wouldn't? They got to work for the greater good while taking home a tidy stipend (which the report says ranged from $5,000 a month to $75,000 a year) from the law firm. It's like being sent away to do community service in Costa Rica, with your parents footing the airfare and food.

How will the deferred adjust to the corporate grind that awaits them? Click here for more on the Pro Bono Institute's assessment of the deferral programs and the Careerist's take on what awaits these young lawyers at their law firms.

If you have topics you'd like to discuss, or information to share for The Careerist, e-mail chief blogger Vivia Chen at VChen@alm.com.

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Yes, indeed, this was a smashing success, especially for all the folks who actually went to law school to become public interest lawyers, who were displaced or never employed in public interest because of all of these BigLaw interlopers.

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