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Law Practice Management

Frost Brown Todd Launches Apprentice Program

Posted Jun 12, 2009 12:26 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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Updated: First-year associates joining Louisville, Ky.-based Frost Brown Todd will have a new title: apprentice.

Rather than raking in a full salary, these apprentices will spend their first 1,000 hours learning on the job at lower pay and under stricter scrutiny. The pressure to bill will also be relieved under the program. New associates in the apprentice program will earn $80,000, but only be required to bill 1,000 hours. That's 800 fewer hours than previous classes were expected to bill, firm chairman John Crockett told the ABA Journal today.

Crockett explained that the 475-attorney firm tinkered with the apprenticeship idea about two months ago as an alternative to rescinding offers and deferring start dates. Now that the firm has decided to roll out the program, the challenge will be to identify apprenticeship opportunities and have a workable system in place by September when the new class of 23 lawyers arrives for work.

Crockett says reaction from clients, and the incoming associate class, has been positive.

In one message to Crockett, an incoming apprentice wrote, "I am ecstatic about the changes to our first year at FBT! I am deeply grateful for the thought put into the program by the firm and for the opportunity to be a part of these innovative changes. Every element of the apprenticeship program sounds phenomenally well-designed to accelerate our skills in the varied aspects of lawyering."

In the firm's press release, Crockett addressed the ongoing debate over the current law firm hiring model. Paying top dollar for inexperienced lawyers and then immediately having them work for clients isn't making sense to law firm managers or clients.

Under the Frost Brown model, clients will further benefit if an apprentice is at work because they'll bill at a lower rate.

“We’re presenting an alternative—the opportunity for young attorneys to develop and master their legal skills through an apprenticeship program, so that they are sooner able to deliver real value at less cost to the client," Crockett said.

Graduates of the program will have the opportunity to earn bonuses based on their performance.

In January, Frost Brown expanded into Indiana by merging with Indianapolis-based Locke Reynolds. The firm now has 11 offices in five states.

Updated at 1:30 to add comments from Crockett.

Also see:

Cincinnati Business Courier: "Frost Brown Todd starts apprentice program"

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