A Selection of Professional Development Opportunities Available at S&W
Learning is a career-long adventure. At S&W, we support your development at all levels by providing top-notch learning and development tools and resources, and our career development program is dedicated to helping you choose which opportunities to seize. Our focus on your individual career development is second-to-none.
Every professional development resource S&W offers is tied to our Core Competencies, a set of skills that defines a successful S&W attorney. Training classes are crafted to support achievement in at least one competency, and usually multiple competencies, and mentoring programs are designed to promote similar achievement. Evaluations of associates at the junior and mid-levels, and evaluations of senior associates and counsel, are tied directly to the competencies. And career development ties it all together. This structure not only ensures maximum transparency, but also best enables associates to take charge of their own success.
Certain milestones mark a career’s progress. Additionally, they provide a natural opportunity to both reflect on your achievement so far and to take time to prepare for your next challenges.
SPOTLIGHT: Doing Due Diligence. This Academy course led by a mid-level associate teaches new associates how to successfully conduct due diligence reviews in connection with common types of corporate business transactions. Students learn to: (1) understand and articulate the role of due diligence in a transaction; (2) obtain appropriate templates for conducting particular types of due diligence; (3) identify and analyze issues commonly uncovered by due diligence; (4) identify and complete the appropriate written summary of due diligence findings; and (5) provide appropriate follow-up.
Business Development Initiative
Cultivating new work is a business imperative for law firms. Designed to emphasize that every attorney brings different strengths to business development, and recognizing that business development is largely a function of building mutually beneficial, genuine relationships, our Business Development Initiative comprises three primary components: ongoing, in-depth demonstrations of the firm’s capabilities and services; periodic essential skill-building workshops; and intensive, personalized coaching for high achievers.
SPOTLIGHT: S&W Right Now: International Tax Practice and Business Relationship with Italy. In this installment of our regular “Right Now” series, partners from our International Tax practice explain what international tax attorneys do, review representative transactions, provide an in-depth review of some of our clients and generally help attorneys understand what sets S&W’s International Tax practice apart. In the second half of the program, a partner deeply involved with our Italian relationship explains the connection and explores the advantages for clients.
SPOTLIGHT: Client Panel. Our client panelists begin by sharing the perspectives, opinions, experiences, needs of and demands on in-house counsel, highlighting the differences from private practice. Panelists then discuss best practices in client service, sharing personal experiences and insights as to how their organizations make decisions to hire and fire law firms. Finally, all involved spend some time reviewing what S&W attorneys do to ensure excellent service.
Each department offers specialized substantive training for attorneys at all levels. Most departments meet at least monthly for training, and some gather as frequently as weekly. In addition, firm-wide, multi-level training initiatives run periodically, focusing on such areas as fundamental legal skills and client service.
SPOTLIGHT: Advanced Legal Writing and Editing. This workshop reviews the fundamentals of excellent writing, including writing with clarity and precision, common punctuation and grammar errors, and stylistic tips. Students then apply these concepts to legal work product, such as memos and briefs, and practice techniques for editing one’s own and others’ work. Designed to appeal to associates with a variety of learning styles, this workshop features hands-on exercises, question-and-answer format and lecture, and offers the opportunity for ongoing one-on-one coaching following the classroom segment.
First Year Mentoring
To support the special needs of first year associates, we pair each first year with a second or third year associate who helps acclimate you to the firm and acts as a resource for those questions you just don’t know how to get answered. This relationship officially lasts one year, and we find that many of our first year mentoring partnerships develop into relationships that last many years.
Recognizing that while lateral associates often arrive at S&W comfortable with the business of being an attorney, they nevertheless may have specific and special questions and interests. S&W typically identifies as a “lateral mentor,” an associate of similar seniority and in the same department. This lateral mentor serves as a resource for the lateral associate’s particular needs, and is a supplement to the Board of Advisors program. As the New York and Washington offices have reported strong informal mentoring, our lateral mentor program has typically been in place only in Boston, our largest office. We expect to expand lateral mentors into all offices as our New York and Washington locations continue to grow.
Everyone needs mentors, regardless of where you are in your career. S&W’s many training programs and career development initiatives are designed to facilitate the sort of meaningful relationship-building that is essential for the formation of true mentoring relationships. Our structured approach to work brokering means that you have a chance to build working relationships with a variety of senior colleagues. And throughout your associate career, our Career Development Manager will connect you with partners and other colleagues in the firm for focused, personalized mentoring, coaching and advice.
Ongoing performance evaluation is a core responsibility of associates and supervising attorneys alike. Attorneys are encouraged to solicit and provide feedback on an ongoing basis, and training and coaching programs provide tips to facilitate ongoing conversations. To supplement ongoing feedback, you participate in a formal evaluation at least once each year on your achievement in the firm’s Core Competencies. Supervising attorneys complete written evaluations and are interviewed by department directors and specially-designated “performance mentors,” who together comprise performance teams. The performance teams then review the results with each associate and provide feedback and guidance on the associate's career development going forward, setting the stage for ongoing work with our career development resource (below).
First Year Evaluation
First year associates are first evaluated after approximately six months with the firm and again during the next annual evaluation process. Conducting the six-month evaluation ensures a formal feedback channel to supplement informal, ongoing feedback, and provides an opportunity to step back and reflect with the First Year Work Broker and Professional Development staff on emerging trends, strengths and areas for focus going forward.
Lateral associates benefit from formal feedback on their work relatively soon after arrival. The lateral review covers a new associate’s work product, work style and relationship-building efforts, culminating in a collaborative discussion with the department leader about the associate’s experience to date, as well as short- and long-term goals.
Tying together and drawing upon all of our professional development initiatives, our Career Development program is dedicated to helping you chart a pathway to long-term success. Our Career Development Manager (CDM): 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 you to select appropriately from the full complement of tools and resources available to you at and through S&W, our Career Development function will help you create, implement, monitor, evaluate and update your personally tailored career development plan.
Personalized Career Coaching
Our Career Development Manager is available to all associates to support you as you set and pursue your career goals. The personalized coaching is done on a strictly confidential basis to encourage an open dialogue to better help you meet your needs. Want to appear more confident in front of partners? Our CDM can help with that. Want to develop a strong, generalist base while preparing to pursue a niche practice? Again, our CDM can help with that. And while we hope that S&W will be a career-long fit for you, we recognize that law practice today is marked by multiple career moves. Our CDM can also help you strategize about your long-term future.
All of S&W’s formal training programs are in place to support the most important means of learning: on-the-job experience. The key to such hands-on learning is getting the assignments that most closely meet your own career development needs. To ensure efficient and fair development, each department assigns work in a manner best suited to balance both associate and client needs. In some cases, our CDM actually serves as a department’s work broker. In other cases, our CDM works closely with department directors and associates to ensure that associates receive the assignments that will best solidify and expand their skill sets in line with our core competencies.
SPOTLIGHT: Corporate Department Work Brokering. Our Career Development Manager is the work broker for our corporate associates. The associates submit work surveys every week detailing their level of anticipated activity for the week so that work can be appropriately assigned to them. Additionally, our Career Development Manager assesses the current skills they have attained through work assignments and works with the associates to assess what skills they may need to become more proficient either in a specific core competency or a specific area of law, and ensures the associates receive assignments to assist them in that regard.
It is so easy to get caught up in the daily challenges and rewards of providing the best possible client service that it’s easy to overlook the incredible opportunities we have to learn from one another. Through our Career Development function, small groups of associates, such as women associates, associates in a particular department or associates at a particular level, get together periodically to discuss a particular topic, such as work-life integration. Typically over lunch, these informal yet valuable conversations help build relationships internally and provide a forum in which to reflect on issues that affect all of us in this fast-paced, intense profession.
SPOTLIGHT: Women’s Brown Bag Lunches. This small group roundtable brings women associates together once a month in all three of our offices to discuss specific issues pertaining to women in law firms. The discussions are an interactive exchange of ideas and experiences from women associates of all levels to serve as a group career development experience. Such topics have included: gender communication differences, work assignments and specifically how to write and speak more authoritatively, self-promotion and work/life balance.
These are only a few of our professional development initiatives. For more information, please contact Heather Edes, Director of Professional Development, at email@example.com or 617-338-2912.