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March 18, 2023

With or Without Economic Uncertainty, Retain Your Top Talent By Bolstering Your Associate Training Program

The Thomson Reuters 2023 Report on the State of the Legal Market ( the “TR Report”) shows that growing uncertainty over macroeconomic-issues, the challenge of returning to the office, and the rising costs of talent, may make it a challenging year for many law firm leaders. While the report indicates that not all firms will be impacted (e.g., mid-size firms are forecasted to continue to grow in this environment), one thing for certain is the need for all firms to strategically think about their associate talent pool. With the costs of recruiting and training associates at Am Law 200 firms being at an average of $400,000 over a four year period¹, it’s no wonder this continues to be top of mind for everyone. 

In fact, the TR Report highlights that associate turnover remains “at one of the higher levels that we have seen in the past decade.” The report further cites a paradigm shift taking place — the market is moving from an implicit bargain that associates will “work very hard for a period of years in exchange for the opportunity to become partners”— to a different proposition “one that guarantees great training and a range of unique experiences that will prepare associates for their next professional role, whether that’s as a partner at the firm or some other position.” 

To address this paradigm shift and remain successful in recruiting and retaining talent in any environment, law firms need to continue to provide associates with training that gives them a competitive edge. As law firms balance the need for investing in their people with the potential of dealing with associate turnover and/or the economic climate, they should consider enhancing their associate training programs with external resources. This is a cost-effective approach to providing their associates with the knowledge and tools they need to grow their skills despite these potential risks. 

Whether in Between Deals or During a Potential Slowdown, How Can Associates Gain Useful Practical Skills?

Whether in between deals or during slower business cycles, it's common for associates (particularly junior associates) to miss out on important real-time learning opportunities acquired when working on live transactions. This practical experience is vital for an associate’s development and crucial for firms hoping to retain top talent amidst a downturn.

Since watching passive learning videos or attending lectures will not do the trick, providing a learning environment that allows lawyers to engage in real-world legal tasks and scenarios becomes the best way to train associates. For example, a course on due diligence skills might include a mock transaction where associates are given a fact pattern and a draft asset purchase agreement, and asked to review typical agreements in due diligence (e.g. distribution agreements, employment agreements, licensing agreements, etc.). The exercise can ask associates to (1) summarize key terms; (2) identify what issues if any they might highlight in an executive summary of a due diligence memorandum and; (3) indicate any follow-on due diligence questions or schedules that may be needed. As associates progress through the program, they receive immediate feedback and guidance from experienced practitioner-instructors. This allows them to focus on the areas where they need the most improvement and to quickly build real-world skills.

An interactive experiential legal training program can offset the missed real-time learning when transactional practice areas experience downtime. Enhancing your training with a proven experiential legal training platform, you can save time and money while ensuring that your associates gain the skills they need to thrive at your firm.

Key Benefits of Enhancing Your Training Programs During Downtimes

Providing associates with interactive experiential legal training is a powerful way to deliver effective training that develops practical skills using real-world scenarios and practice-based assignments. By investing in such initiatives, firms not only ensure their associates are properly prepared when the deals pick up again, but they can also increase future productivity and profitability.

Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits to consider when bolstering your associate training program.

1. Associates Remain on Track to Develop Real World Skills; Partners Reap Benefit of New Efficiencies

By working through mock transactions with interesting facts from real-world scenarios, associates learn to issue spot, understand the mechanics of a transaction, and appreciate the practical steps to closing a deal. Prolonged downtime can have a negative impact on associates as their substantive skill development stalls. If your associates are gaining new skills during a downtime then they will have the confidence and ability to perform when deal volume ramps up again. Equally important, this will prove to be valuable to you once you are back in deal mode. Imagine having your associate take the first turn at reviewing an NDA and they send you a draft with all of the relevant issues identified and even suggested changes that are actually practical solutions!

2. Partners Can Build Business with Confidence in a Strong Bench

Another key benefit of enhancing your associate training is that it frees up partners time to concentrate on maintaining client relationships and building a business pipeline. These are always crucial activities but even more important in between deals or during slower economic environments. With interactive experiential legal training, partners can have the assurance that their associates are building practical skills and will hit the ground running when deal flow increases. Equally important is the confidence partners will have knowing that they have the bench strength to staff new deals with enhanced associate efficiency and proficiency.

3. Effective Training Improves Associate Wellness and Increases Retention

Finally, one benefit often overlooked when considering interactive experiential legal training is that it improves associate wellness — which in turn increases retention rates. Research has shown that ineffective training and a lack of knowledge strongly correlates with high stress levels and burnouts in the workplace. Given its potency on gaining practical skills, this type of training offers associates additional opportunities for professional growth while providing them with confidence and a sense of accomplishment through the successful completion of courses, real-life scenarios and tailored feedback. It also gives them access to resources they may not have had otherwise—allowing them to stay ahead in their career path within your firm!

Enhance Your Associate Training with AltaClaro’s Interactive Experiential Legal Training

There are many advantages to be gained from introducing proven interactive experiential legal training into your law firm's associate training program. Not only does this type of program provide associates with real-world skills when deal flow is slow but also frees up time for partners so they can focus on client needs and business development activities — as well as positively impacting associate wellness and retention.

Allen & Overy, Ropes & Gray, K&L Gates, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, and Barnes & Thornburg

At AltaClaro, we understand that in today’s fast-paced legal world, attorneys need to be on the cutting edge in order to stay competitive and successful. Our online boot camps help lawyers leverage technology and learn practical legal skills in a hybrid format through mock transactions and live feedback sessions with seasoned practitioners. From Fundamentals of M&A Transactions, Corporate Transactions and Commercial Lending Transactions to Capital Markets, Real Estate Transactions, Technology Transactions and E-Discovery, our course catalog spans beginner to intermediate level classes. Our state-of-the-art learning technology platform also helps you measure and track training engagement and performance so you can see exactly how your training is driving better results for your employees as well as your ROI.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our experts and learn how you can benefit from Interactive Experiential Legal Training.

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¹Paula Monopoli & Susan McCarty, Law and Leadership: Integrating leadership studies into the law school curriculum, 2016.

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About the author

Julie Ryan

Julie Ryan leads and oversees course design, development, and instruction for AltaClaro’s Training Programs. Julie has taught over 400 U.S. and international lawyers to date; in addition to teaching on AltaClaro’s platform, she teaches a lawyering skills course for international business lawyers at Georgetown Law and served for over 8 years as Associate Director of Legal Writing and Advocacy for international LL.M. students at USC Gould School of Law.