Legal Apprentice

hired law grad apprentice.jpgFirst years to 100K and an “apprenticeship”?
In the past two months, we’ve reported on three firms instituting an apprenticeship model for first year associates: Drinker Biddle, Howrey, and Frost Brown Todd. “Apprentices” start at the firm at a lower salary and are not billed out to clients, billed out at a lower rate than normal associates, or billed out for lower total hours. It sounds like an apprentice is a “paralegal plus.” Of course, that “plus” includes a J.D. and its accompanying law school debt.
Still, when we polled you last week, almost 70% of ATL readers who voted said they were in favor of Howrey’s $100K-plus-professional-training apprenticeship.
The National Law Journal (subscription) has an extensive piece on apprenticeships (noting two other firms that have instituted the practice — labor firm Ford & Harri­son and Dallas’s Strasburger & Price):

These firms are putting new recruits through additional apprenticeship programs that they say will better train their attorneys for life at a law firm and for handling clients. Think of it as the equivalent of a medical residency, only with suits instead of scrubs.

The latest — and so far largest — firm to move to an apprenticeship model, 659-lawyer Howrey, announced its program last week. Starting next year, first-years at the firm will get a pay cut — from $160,000 to $100,000 in base pay plus a $25,000 bonus to pay down law school loans — and they’ll spend a good portion of their time attending classes with partners and shadowing them on client matters. The apprenticeship period will last two years.

Are law students really like medical students, in need of on-the-job training in order to operate in the real world? If apprenticeships become widespread — which admittedly seems unlikely once the tough economic times are behind us — should the training at a firm mean one less year in law school? Firm salaries are going down, but law school tuition is going up. Maybe it’s time to rebalance.
A round-up of the salaries for BigLaw apprentices, and a poll on how law schools should be reacting to deflating salaries, after the jump.

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