General Counsels Refuse to Pay for First Year Associate Training

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on October 19, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Is your company okay with paying for an outside counsel firm's first-year associate training?

For many years, it seems that the answer was "yes." It almost seemed inevitable that projects would be staffed with young attorneys.

But now there's a growing trend amongst general counsels: refusing to pay for first or second-year associates. After all, these attorneys are young. They don't have legal experience. How many companies are doing so?

So far, it's still a minority. About 20% of general counsels surveyed by the Association of Corporate Counsel say that they simply refuse to pay for young attorneys. At $200-300 an hour, novice legal skills come with a hefty price tag.

But this trend seems to be growing. It seems likely that as time goes on - and as the economy remains shaky - more general counsels will opt for a similar strategy. In fact, half of the companies that have implemented these types of policies have done so in the last two years.

Perhaps it's a response to the increasing cost of legal fees. And it's likely true that companies everywhere need to start downsizing their budgets in order to stay afloat.

Should your company start doing the same? When working with outside counsel, it may be important to analyze if you should be hiring more experienced attorneys.

Maybe getting first or second-year associates is okay on simple matters. But on high stakes issues, you might want to opt for someone with a few more years under their belt.

Ultimately, whether or not you feel comfortable paying top-dollar for novice associates is up to you (and your company's accounting department). Though considering there are a number of young attorneys joining the ranks of BigLaw firms every year, it might become an inevitability.

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