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Law Schools Hail Drinker Biddle Plan to Pay Less, Train More

Posted May 12, 2009 8:51 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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There is no substitute for on-the-job training, and Drinker Biddle & Reath’s plan to pay new associates less and train them more is “a courageous step,” according to one law school administrator,

Elaine Petrossian, assistant dean of the Office of Career Strategy and Advancement at Villanova University School of Law, is among law school officials praising Drinker Biddle’s program announced yesterday, the Legal Intelligencer reports. The law firm will pay new associates a lower salary amounting to $105,000 on an annual basis for their first six months of work. At the same time, associates will learn the ropes in a new in-house training program.

Associates will shadow partners at client meetings and court hearings and will take classes in writing briefs and taking depositions. During this time, there will be no billable requirement. After six months, the associates’ salaries will be increased to "prevailing market rates."

Petrossian called the approach “novel” and “positive,” the story says. While many law schools provide clinical training, she said, there is no substitute for on-the job training.

"I think it sounds like an incredibly thoughtful and reasonable approach to this very difficult conundrum of large law firms and the price structure they have established for new attorneys," she told the Intelligencer. "I think it looks as though Drinker has taken a courageous step toward the core values of training and mentoring the firm's own attorneys."

Updated at 1:32 p.m. to correct a quote from Petrossian.

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