Is there value in training associate attorneys at your law firm?

July 17

Most small to mid-sized law firms operate on razor-thin margins and can't afford the expenses that come with associate turnover and ineffective attorney performance.  To avoid the risks and costs of training associate attorneys who may leave the firm or turn out to be poor producers, many law firms have given up on hiring brand new attorneys when filling open positions or meeting future staffing needs. 

Navigating through associate training and development.

These law firms prefer to hire associate lawyers with experience. They hire lateral associates who they assume have been properly trained by their former employers.  However, this is not always the case.


Associates who leave firms prematurely contribute to the training reticence. Additionally, many clients refuse to pay for training associates, and in some instances, for even letting associates work on their cases. 


We have watched these factors add up to a series of missed opportunities, accelerating law firm aging and diminishing competitiveness. 


In today's ultra-competitive legal environment with heightened attorney and staff turnover, law firms must find ways to stand apart from other firms.  One of the best ways to do this is by acquiring, training, and retaining top talent. 


For those who can see the value in investing in the development of new attorneys, we recommend a process that includes the following elements:

  • Formal training plan and budget;
  • Structured access to trained lawyers;
  • Mentoring program;
  • Training incentives;
  • Work assignments that are congruent with the training plan; and
  • Structured evaluation and feedback system.

Smart firms will adjust their strategic plan and cost structure to allow for the inclusion of bright new minds. Measurable benefits, however, may be produced from at least considering the necessary elements of training lawyers and applying them on a conceptual level. 


More articles about building an effective attorney development system at your firm: 

  • Extending the Life of Your Firm with Attorney Development

    Focusing on attorney development from the start also gives law firms a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining the most talented lawyers and in being better prepared for the future.  

  • Maximize Attorney Performance

    An effective attorney development system should include the following components recruiting effectiveness, associate quality, work ethic, suitability for the role, training and mentoring, clear expectations, compensation and incentives, evaluation process, and feedback. 
  •  6 Characteristics of Weak Attorney Performance Management

    While attorney performance is a combination of several factors, the 6 signs described in this post highlight that attorney performance management may be a problem at your law firm.