A generally admiring look at Howrey's “First Tier” program in today’s Washington Post. Howrey has a track record as an innovator: the litigation “boot camp,” the ahead-of-the-curve elimination of lockstep compensation, and now, First Tier, which is a substantial reimagining of the BigLaw training model. A two-year program, First Tier offers new attorneys a below-market $100,000 salary and the opportunity to “attend structured training sessions, shadow experienced attorneys, have access to an on-site writing consultant and spend three-month stints in clients' legal departments, all at the expense of the firm.” The firm has compared the concept to medical residencies or accounting secondments. According to Eileen Billinson, Howrey’s Chief of Human Resources and Attorney Programs, the program is designed to prompt law students “to go through some introspection to determine that this is what they’d like to do.”
Because First Tier places a hard, low cap on billable client work (700 hours), and bills out that time at a lower rate, several clients have reportedly waived their prohibition on first-years working on their matters. As for Howrey’s recruiting competiveness, the article quotes a dean at UVA law school, “Tier One certainly didn't dissuade students from pursuing interviews with the firm.”
Other firms that have either implemented (or are planning to) some combination of lower rates, more structured training periods, and merit-based pay include WilmerHale, Holland & Knight, Dickstein Shapiro, Drinker Biddle, Orrick, and DLA Piper.
-posted by brian