Apprenticeship/Associateship in Law Firms
Legal Counseling Report
By Cris T. Casiple, LlB-4
- a practical training on the job supplemented by related theoretical
instruction, for a highly skilled or technical occupation for a period of not less
than three (3) months but not more than six (6) months. 1
the act of being trained in a particular skill for a set amount of time by a
specific employer. During this time the wages will be relatively low but on
completion of the apprenticeship they increase to reflect the increased status
of the employee and to recognize the skills required. 2
Apprenticeship in law firm, for the purpose of this report, shall be understood in its
ordinary sense (second definition) and not in its technical sense (first definition).
- may be a junior or senior attorney, but normally does not hold an ownership
interest in the firm even if associated with the firm for many years. First-year
associates are entry-level junior attorneys and are generally recent law
school graduates in their first year of law practice. Generally, an associate
has the goal of being made a partner in the firm, after a number of years
gaining practice experience and being assigned to increasingly more
important and remunerative tasks. At firms with an "up or out" policy,
associates who are repeatedly passed over for promotion to partner may be
asked to resign. Some firms will also have "non-partner-track" associates
who, though performing satisfactorily as employees, for whatever reason, will
not be promoted to partner.3
Associates are law firm lawyers who have the prospect of becoming partners.
Large firms divide associates into junior and senior associates, depending on
merit and experience level. The typical law firm lawyer works as an associate
for six to nine years before ascending to the partnership ranks ("making
partner"). When, and if, an associate makes partner generally depends on a
combination of factors including the associate's legal acumen, client base
and how well he or she fits into the firm's culture. 4
1 Article 58, Labor Code of the Philippines
2 Oxford Dictionary for the Business World
A training program or system for the transmission of knowledge and technical
skills. It works especially well for all crafts requiring complex skills and
Advantages of Apprenticeship
- No capital is required to start the apprenticeship.
- Legal apprentices will gain a wealth of real work experience (apprenticeships
are real jobs with additional training and assessment) which puts you way
ahead of your peers in terms of experience. It also suits those who like to
learn by doing rather than a more theoretical, academic approach. 6
- There is less risk for a new lawyer to fail in his practice of law, granting that
the law firm where he is an apprentice properly supervises his training.
- Shared responsibility with the law firm in case of problems to arise in the
course of practice.
Disadvantages of Apprenticeship
- If compensation is to be viewed as a consideration for practice, the same is
usually less relative to than earned if the lawyer practices on his own or as a
- The quality of apprenticeship is highly dependent on the policies and culture
of the firm where it is done.
- The apprentice faces same risk as other employees. So, if there isn’t a
business need or you don’t get on well you could find yourself out of work
after a year or two.
Associate Training by Practice and Supervision
Examples of how the apprenticeship program works today in most law firms.
A real estate partner, who has been practicing real estate law for years,
guides a new associate assigned to her department. That partner had learned
her craft years ago from still senior partners. She has since developed her
own techniques and ways of doing things. She has mastered her trade.
She now passes on her knowledge and skills by teaching the new associates.
It is a process that depends on close supervision. Sometimes it is friendly,
sometimes not. That depends on the partner and the firm culture.
5 The Law Firm Apprenticeship Tradition And Why Most Lawyers Are Still Untrained in eDiscovery _ e-Discovery Team.com)
The partner both explains and shows the associate, the apprentice lawyer,
the ins and outs of deals, closings, title searches, funding, zoning, contracts,
and document preparation.7
Some Facts about Apprenticeship
In some countries, apprenticeship is one way to practice law.
In five US states, you can still take this non-law school route to becoming a
lawyer. Vermont, Washington, California, Virginia and Wyoming all allow
people to become lawyers by “reading the law,” which, simply put, means
studying and apprenticing in the office of a practicing attorney or judge. 8