Training Tips from an Am Law Superstar

After leaping to the top of last year’s American Lawyer surveys on summer-associate satisfaction and midlevel-associate satisfaction, Baltimore-based Miles & Stockbridge, a Legal Writing Pro client, has done it again.

This year, the firm was the top-ranked firm in the country for summer-associate satisfaction.

Last year, I asked Randi Lewis, the firm’s Director of Diversity and Professional Development, to share why she thought her firm keeps coming out so far ahead.

1. Randi, congratulations on your superb American Lawyer satisfaction rankings this year. Miles & Stockbridge was the only firm in the country to rank in the top ten on both surveys. What’s the secret?

Ross, thank you very much. We are indeed delighted to be ranked so highly by both our midlevel associates (2nd of 148) and our summer associates (5th of 159 in 2004; 1st in 2005). I think there are several reasons behind the high level of job satisfaction we see here. The attraction, development, and promotion of our associates (at every level) are incredibly important to us. The simple answer is we are deliberate and focused about making sure they understand (and feel) this with every interaction. We have new, visionary leadership with a top-down commitment to firm initiatives—everything from client service to our summer program. Education is also key to our associate and summer associate commitments.

2. Let’s start with the associates. What specifically has worked for you in associate training?

Through our Miles & Stockbridge Education Forum, we teach associates both fundamental legal skills and the esoteric nuances of our practices. Litigators get a formal program every six to eight weeks on, say, how to take a deposition, how to propound and respond to discovery, how to write better motions and briefs, and how to manage ADR techniques.

Our corporate lawyers also meet monthly during lunch. Every time, we run an educational program by one of our lawyers or an outside speaker on everything from understanding due diligence to sales and purchase agreements, the basics of taxable acquisitions, and recent intellectual property issues.

We also keep a library of Education Forum materials that our lawyers can access at any time.

3. How about your summer associates? Any tips on how firms can set themselves apart from the crowd?

One thing I think is important is that all our firm colleagues participate in the summer program, particularly the chairman of our firm, who participates in several of our education forums. At least once a week, our summer associates get a formal educational program on everything from client service and confidentiality to memo and brief writing, oral advocacy, depositions, and emerging employment-law issues.

This summer, we provided an additional writing workshop that you conducted and an oral advocacy workshop by the head of our litigation department and one of our experienced trial lawyers. Our summer associates raved about both workshops. Many said that your workshop was the best writing course they had ever taken. Your course gave our summer associates and fall associates practical ways to turn in better work product. You identified the precise problems partners say need improvement, and gave practical writing and editing strategies to hone writing skills. This is exactly the type of training that may set our program apart from others.

We also make sure we remain in touch with our summer associates to ensure they stay directed in their work assignments. In the middle of our summer program this year, we asked them what they wanted to know about our firm that wasn’t already on our summer agenda. Within a day of receiving their responses, we scheduled several additional educational forums and workshops to satisfy their inquiries.

Thanks again Randi for your insights and suggestions!


Interview conducted on Tuesday, November 9, 2004.

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