Please Click to Hear - Associate Voices
Junior associates at Patterson Belknap routinely handle what many other firms save for senior associates or even partners. It's not unusual to defend a deposition during your first or second year or pick up the phone to find a client on the other line. The variety of work—from discrete, fast-paced litigation and general counseling to high-profile, complex cases and transactions—gives our attorneys a wide variety of skills and experience.
Training and Career Development
One of the best ways for new associates to learn is by doing. In becoming a great trial lawyer, there's no substitute for getting on your feet in court and conducting your first argument or examination of a witness. Likewise, seeing a deal through to closing provides true insight into transactional practice.
At the same time, the firm recognizes the importance of, and provides, more structured training and guidance. The firm has a robust in-house training program and supports many outside programs as well. Our goal and hope are that each of our associates becomes an outstanding lawyer who excels in providing client service and upholding the standards of our profession.
Choosing a Practice Area
Once a candidate accepts our offer of post-law school employment, we ask him or her to choose a general practice area (e.g., litigation, real estate, corporate, etc.). We make every effort to match the new associate's interests with the firm's needs. Most associates practice in one area based on their professional preference, their development and the needs of the firm. Occasionally, some first-year associates practice in two areas. Associates initially practicing in two areas select one area at the end of their first year.
New Associate Orientation
The firm provides new associates with a week-long orientation to Patterson Belknap and the practice of law. Some of the program segments taught by our partners include "The Business of Running a Law Firm," "Pro Bono and Public Service Commitments," "Learning the Mechanics and Management of Legal Practice" and "Introduction to Research and Writing Skills." Other segments introducing new associates to the "how to" practicalities of the firm's information systems, library and other features are guided by firm administrative directors and managers.
Mentoring relationships often develop naturally between partners and associates who work side-by-side on legal matters. But to provide further support, each new associate is paired with an associate mentor. Mentors provide professional and practical advice to associates making the transition from law school student to attorney. Mentoring continues after the first year and addresses issues arising at each stage of an associate's professional development. Further, through the Class Advisor Program, litigation associates in each year's classes are teamed with two or three partners who provide an additional source of guidance.
Review and Feedback
During the first two years of practice, associates are reviewed every six months. Thereafter, they are reviewed annually. The review process is thorough. Written reviews are collected from the partners and senior attorneys with whom an associate has worked and are summarized by a member of the Associates Review Committee. Two partners then meet with each associate to review in detail the firm's assessment of the associate's work. In addition to these formal reviews, associates receive informal feedback as they work directly with senior attorneys.
Continuing Legal Education
Associates are encouraged to attend seminars and conferences in their areas of interest. These may take place outside or inside the firm—or even online. Many of our own partners and associates teach CLE seminars. The firm is recognized as an accredited provider by the New York CLE Board, and all lawyers can earn required CLE credits through the firm's in-house training program. We also bring outside experts to the firm to conduct seminars in areas such as legal writing, oral advocacy, communication skills, deposition practice and negotiation strategies. Informal continuing legal education often occurs at monthly departmental luncheons.
Promotion to Partner
Admission of new partners is based on merit, and decisions are made by the entire partnership. Associates generally are first considered for partnership after eight years. We are proud that many of our partners started their legal careers at the firm and rose through the ranks to partnership.