Karen Sloan (Law.com), Law Schools Simulate Firm Summer Associate Programs Amid COVID-19 Cutbacks:
Can an online law school class approximate the experience of being a summer associate at a law firm? We’ll soon find out.
At least two campuses have launched summer programs designed to help students develop the real-world skills they would normally pick up working at law firms or in internships, as many of those training opportunities have evaporated amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York Law School has partnered with Venable for its eight-week Summer Associate Simulation Program, which is modeled after the summer associate experience at a large law firm. The 200 enrolled students have been placed into “practice groups,” are attending online classes, and will work on simulated legal matters tied to the coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, the University of Illinois at Chicago John Marshall Law School just kicked off a 10-week Summer Associate Training Academy for students and recent graduates that incorporates simulated legal matters and gives participants the opportunity to get feedback from attorneys and judges on a drafting assignment.
Both programs are intended to help fill the summer training gaps left by shortened or cancelled summer associate programs and internships, and those moved entirely online. A handful of large law firms have cancelled their summer associate programs outright citing COVID-19, while many more have whittled them from 10 weeks down to five weeks. The remaining programs will primarily happen virtually.
“This class—and the next two—face really difficult circumstances,” said James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement. “They’ll face a tough job market, but they’ll also face a skills gap because all of the ways that people get experience over the summer are compromised. Anything schools, employers or bar associations do to provide practical, hands-on active learning is great. Do they entirely replace a summer associate position or a summer internship with a federal government agency? No. But are they way better than nothing? Yes.”