The Firms

June 23, 2009 9:52 AM

Howrey's New Model: A Two-Year Associate Apprenticeship

Posted by Zach Lowe

Howrey on Monday announced an innovative plan to place all incoming associates in a two-year apprenticeship program designed to give them extensive training before they are placed on client matters at normal billing rates, according to the Blog of Legal Times, an Am Law Daily sibling blog. 

The plan, which the firm announced internally Monday afternoon, does involve a salary cut for associates. First-years will earn $100,000 plus $25,000--in most cases, the BLT says--to pay back loans. Second-years will earn $125,000 plus an additional $25,000 if they complete the two-year apprenticeship, Howrey's managing partner, Robert Ruyak, told the BLT Monday. 

Here's the money quote: "The old model is broken. You're bringing on these extremely bright individuals and letting them waste their careers buried in documents where they really aren't learning the practical skills it takes to be lawyer."

The plan is similar to the six-month training program Drinker Biddle & Reath unveiled for incoming first-years last month--a plan that drew praise from law school administrators and outside counsel who have long opposed paying first-years market rates. But the Howrey plan is considerably longer; salaries for first-years at Drinker Biddle would rise back to market rates after six months, according to the Legal Intelligencer, an Am Law Daily sibling publication. 

During their first year at Howrey, associates will shadow partners, take writing and research courses, and work on pro bono matters. In their second year, the associates will be embedded at client sites for "several months" and bill at a reduced rate of about $150 or $200 per hour, the BLT says. They will continue to take courses. 

Ruyak stressed that the plan is not going to be an immediate money-saver. The firm will lose about $3-4 million in training costs and losses from unbilled hours or hours billed at lower-than-normal rates, he told the BLT. The goal, he says, is to position the firm to "turn a profit more quickly" once the program is up and running and clients realize the firm has a group of young lawyers ready to perform.

Sounds interesting, right? What do the readers think? 

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