Training and Development
Both the business and litigation areas have developed introductory training curricula to introduce new lawyers to essential knowledge and skills. The business department offers training sessions devoted to basic corporate negotiation, documentation and drafting techniques. Among the topics covered are issues relating to initial organization, venture capital financing, intellectual property licensing and distribution, real estate, executive compensation, and sale of the company.
Firm wide and departmental training programs are scheduled regularly for more advanced lawyers to address practice-specific and cross-departmental issues, and we encourage our lawyers to attend outside seminars to supplement their skills and knowledge in substantive specialty areas. The litigation area, for example, periodically presents programs on such topics as trial preparation, direct and cross examination, and negotiation skills, and sends all associates in either their third or fourth year to an intensive week-long trial advocacy workshop. There are also firm wide seminars on such professional development concerns as time management, marketing skills and professional responsibility.
Litigation associates also have the opportunity to spend a three to four-month period at the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office, trying a multitude of cases and gaining invaluable courtroom experience.
Associate Development and Responsibility
While the firm handles billion dollar business transactions and large, complex commercial litigations, we also represent a large number of young companies as they start-up and grow. Many complex matters are staffed with interdisciplinary teams of lawyers, drawing on expertise across practice groups. Other matters are staffed with only one partner and one associate. This diverse mix of clients and practice allows ample opportunities for talented associates to take on significant responsibility on a wide variety of matters at an early stage, allowing client contact, court appearances and corporate drafting and negotiation experience.
Evaluation and Feedback
In addition to the informal feedback which associates receive while working closely on a day-to-day basis with their supervising lawyers, the firm maintains formal systems for the review and evaluation of associates' work which are tailored to the associates' levels of experience.
Associates Review Committee (ARC)
This committee of partners reviews on an annual basis the professional development of the firm's most senior associates as they approach consideration for partnership. All partners submit to the committee evaluations on each associate, addressing the associate's legal skills, responsibility, commitment, efficiency and professionalism. The committee then synthesizes the consensus (or lack thereof) on each associate's performance. The partnership as a whole has another opportunity to provide input before the Executive Committee uses the information in making recommendations on advancement to partnership.
At the conclusion of the evaluation process, each associate meets with a member of the ARC and a member of the Executive Committee to discuss the evaluation.
Department Coordinator Reviews
Each associate receives annually, or in the case of the most junior associates semi-annually, a review designed to provide substantive and constructive critiques of specific work assignments. The partners and senior associates with whom an associate has worked most closely are surveyed and asked to present their praise, criticisms and suggestions for improvements in the associate's performance. The associate then meets with his or her Department Coordinator in an informal session to discuss the associate's strengths and weaknesses, and to explore the types of assignments the associate has received, specialized expertise that the associate has developed or wants to develop, and other aspects of the associate's professional development.