We have resisted the trend among major law firms to require immediate specialization by new associates. Instead, first-year associates at S&W participate in a rotation program – exposing our associates to a broad range of disciplines, specialty areas and training. First-year associates spend 2 to 3 months in each of our major Departments – Corporate, Litigation, Real Estate and Tax. This allows our first-year associates the opportunity to gain exposure to our different practice areas within these Departments, and work with associates and partners throughout our firm. The goal of the rotation program is to enrich and expose our associates to different areas of legal discipline and clients, developing them into well-rounded and highly-skilled lawyers.
The program is closely monitored and supervised by a partner and the head of our professional development team. This ensures that each first-year associate is receiving the appropriate mentoring and training required for each discipline, as well as the necessary tools and feedback they need to be successful for each rotation and beyond. At the end of the rotation program, first-year associates work with their supervisors to select the discipline in which they would like to concentrate.
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 how to review a commercial lease to knowing how to structure a closing 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.
Below is a sampling of courses taught in the First Year Academy and what our first-year associates are saying about them:
On Fundamentals of Legal Writing: Drafting and Understanding Agreements taught by Amy Zuccarello:
“[The seminar] covered a topic that is not a fixture in most law schools’ curricula. As associates, we will need to know transactional drafting so having some exposure and understanding is key.”
On Discovery Basics taught by Nicholas O’ Donnell:
“Nick is clearly an expert in mastering discovery strategies, and it was great to hear from him about his own experiences with particular cases and judges.”
On Bankruptcy Basics taught by Jeanne Darcey:
“Jeanne did a wonderful job turning what could be a very complicated subject into something easy to understand even for those without a prior bankruptcy background.”
“Choice of entity is such an important concept for our general knowledge base, so it was great to have an overview before we start projects. [T]he material presented was the perfect amount to refresh concepts learned in law school from a very practical angle.”
On Intro to Public Securities taught by Jeffrey Morlend:
“It was very useful to get an overview of how to access EDGAR and to learn about the common mistakes made by many first-year associates while doing securities work.”
On Doing Well by Doing Good – Pro Bono taught by Patrick Dinardo:
“It was great to learn about the various pro bono projects that have been completed in the past at the firm. I like that Pat encouraged us to do a certain amount of pro bono work each year.”