Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Big Law Avoids ‘Lost Generation’ With Remote First-Year Programs

Bloomberg Law, Big Law Avoids ‘Lost Generation’ with Remote First-Year Programs:

In the past six months, Grace Fernandez graduated from Berkeley Law, took the California bar exam, and started a new job as an associate at Fenwick & West.

She did it all from her childhood bedroom in Phoenix.

“It’s definitely a surreal and unexpected change,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez’s experience isn’t unusual, as Fenwick is one of several Big Law firms to use online communications to bring on their newest batch of associates this fall. Other firms have opted to hold off first-year start dates until early 2021.

That doesn’t mean it’s been easy for human resources departments to integrate first-years, who are often fresh out of law school like Fernandez, into firms’ practices.

“There is no replacing that person-to-person interaction and the connection that comes from being face to face,” said Neha Shah Nissen, Fenwick’s chief talent officer.

Fenwick focused on new-hire needs as it developed its onboarding process over the summer, when it had to quickly pivot from in-person to online training for its summer associates, according to Nissen.

“It’s not just about getting on a Zoom,” she said. “But it was, how do we help them engage when they’re on that Zoom meeting and seeing all the squares across the screen?”

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