S&W’s career-long professional development initiatives begin with a special focus on first-year associates, offering training, work brokering, mentoring and career development programs designed specifically to support an attorney’s first year of practice.
Upon arrival at S&W, first-year associates spend one to two weeks in our comprehensive First Year Academy, an intensive training experience designed to help first years quickly develop the practical skills required for success from one’s first year throughout one’s entire career. From the nuts and bolts of preparing lease summaries to knowing at what point in a business meal to get down to business to leveraging S&W’s litigation support technology, first years master the basics quickly and emerge poised for success. Upon completion of First Year Academy, first years are ready not only to take on assignments, but also to participate in department meetings, in S&W substantive and skills training classes and in external continuing legal education programming.
First-year associates at S&W take on assignments in a variety of practice areas, determined by the first year’s preference and the workload in each practice area. Each year, a partner who is specially appointed as the First Year Work Broker is in charge of distributing first-year assignments from all practice areas and offices. The Work Broker is also a mentor for first-year associates, providing guidance and advice throughout the process of determining which practice will be the best fit.
First-year associates are also paired with second- or third-year associate peer mentors. These mentors help acclimate first years to the firm and act as a resource on a variety of matters, from getting things done in the office to determining which practice area to join. This relationship officially lasts one year, and we find that many of our first-year mentoring partnerships develop into relationships that last many years.
Tying together and drawing upon all of our first-year associate and general professional development initiatives, our Career Development program is dedicated to helping all associates, particularly first years, chart a pathway to long-term success. Our Career Development Manager helps associates assess their own strengths and areas for improvement and analyze current and future growth opportunities; coaches associates in building and managing relationships; looks for and assesses training opportunities tied to your specific substantive development; serves as a liaison between management and associates; works with associates on reduced hours to ensure their progress and development; and generally provides a welcoming resource for all manner of questions and concerns. Ultimately, by helping first-year associates to select appropriately from the full complement of tools and resources available at and through S&W, our Career Development function will help first years create, implement, monitor, evaluate and update a personally tailored career development plan.