In today’s market, where some firms are excelling and others are failing, Husch Blackwell has been able to firmly plant its flag on the right side of growth and innovation by securing an impressive #81 spot on the 2023 Am Law 100 rankings. This 10-place leap from the previous year and unparalleled 16.6% revenue growth—AmLaw reported a 2.7% average—speaks volumes to the firm’s strategic planning.
With 21 physical offices nationwide and a growing virtual office called ‘The Link’ that houses more professionals than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, Husch Blackwell has proven that it’s no ordinary firm. While many firms are challenged by the potential pitfalls of remote work, Husch Blackwell has been able to enhance work productivity while helping their employees balance life’s priorities.
In this case study, we explore how Husch Blackwell leveraged AltaClaro, a pioneer in revolutionizing legal training, to further drive their culture of innovation and excellence.
Husch Blackwell's Introduction to AltaClaro
Kirstin Salzman, a Partner and the Practice Group Leader for Corporate, M&A, and Securities at Husch Blackwell, has always been at the forefront of legal innovation. Focusing her practice on mergers and acquisitions primarily within the manufacturing and healthcare industries, she recognized the potential of AltaClaro early on. “What attracted me to the AltaClaro programs is that they provide professional training with vetted practitioners who know how to teach,” Salzman shares. “Their approach is also unique in that it is real hands-on learning. You're not just watching a bunch of videos and then answering some silly multiple choice questions.”
In 2021, Salzman brought AltaClaro on to train her associates, leveraging their three bootcamps: Corporate, M&A, and Capital Markets. She has seen numerous benefits, commenting, “Our associates will actually take the things that they've learned and apply them to real-world mock assignments, and then receive feedback from instructors. The real differentiation and value-add for us is the doing and reviewing.” Since 2021, Salzman has run an AltaClaro training program every year. “With offices in 18 different cities,” she says, “we are able to provide solid, quality training across our platform in a very efficient and effective manner.”
Designing a Learning Pathway for New Deal Lawyers
This year, Kirstin took her partnership with AltaClaro to the next level by designing a special learning pathway and schedule for her new deal lawyers. The training was structured into two distinct phases to ensure a comprehensive learning experience.
Kicking off during the associates’ first week at the firm, Phase 1 spanned 5 weeks and operated on a schedule of one class per week. This initial phase was dedicated to laying a strong foundation in key areas such as transactional due diligence and disclosure schedules, M&A overview, M&A deal process, basics of contract drafting, and forming entities. Salzman emphasized the timing of this training, stating, “AltaClaro’s programs provide, at the very beginning of an associate’s career, a comprehensive view of what we do on a day in and day out basis. If we didn't do that, they'd be getting little bits and pieces of deals over maybe a one or two year time period, and it would take them a long time to kind of fit all these pieces together.”
Phase 1 was intentionally timed before Salzman’s practice group goes through their high-intensity deal season at the end of the year, giving associates, as Salzman puts it, “a context of how deals work and it really makes them more productive and more valuable to us in a short period of time.” The training will pause from November through December.
Come the new year, AltaClaro will launch Phase 2 of the training program. During this phase, the focus is on taking the associates to the next level with a set of intermediate to advanced courses covering deep dives on drafting NDAs, LOIs, Asset Purchase Agreements, Stock Purchase Agreements, and Merger Agreements. Unlike the fast-paced Phase 1, Phase 2 will operate at a slower pace of one class every two weeks to accommodate associates’ time with client work commitments.
Under both phases, each class is offered through AltaClaro’s online/cloud portal. Each requires a 4-hour commitment spread throughout the 1 or 2 week period based on the AltaClaro signature Learn-Do-Review methodology, as follows:
- Lesson Videos + Self-assessments: Associates complete on-demand bite-sized videos and self-assessments. Videos are broken out into 10 minute digestible segments.
- Simulation Assignment: Associates complete self-paced simulation assignment/mock transaction. Associates are given a hypothetical client matter to complete using real-world scenarios and documents.
- Live Group Review Session: Associates participate in a live group review session with an instructor (via videoconferencing) to review the simulation assignment/mock transaction, ask questions, and dive deeper on the issues and tasks presented by the assignment.
Live sessions are conducted in small cohorts of no more than 10 associates to allow instructors to review submissions and prepare for a tailored discussion, and to create an optimal environment for interaction and learning.
“The associates get a taste of what an entire deal looks like from start to finish at a faster rate and this frees up partners and senior associates to focus on advanced or nuanced mentoring and revenue generating work, which is what we're here for. Not only does this make our associates more efficient, it also frees us up to do what we need to do to help the law firm continue to grow.”
- Kirstin Salzman, Partner & Practice Group Leader Corporate & M&A
Leveraging Data Driven Insights
AltaClaro’s Data Insights serves as a cornerstone for the training program’s success by tracking associate engagement, feedback, and performance. Associates quickly get invested because the live review sessions create powerful, safe spaces to learn. Instructors review submitted assignments and provide feedback to the group, identifying their opportunities and strengths. No grades are given and associates have the opportunity to take their time, ask questions, make mistakes, and get feedback on their simulated work products.
Instructors give feedback on the following criteria:
- Has the associate followed the specific instructions in the assignment and applied the correct concept and adapted it for the given situation?
- Has the associate identified all legal and practical issues in a given hypothetical?
- Did the associate have a strong understanding of the material and devised a unique practical (legal) solution that can be used to solve the given problem?
- Did the associate use best practices to solve the problems presented by the fact patterns (best drafting techniques, approach, etc.)?
These evaluations not only help associates improve but also provide early indicators for those who might need extra support in transitioning from academic settings to real-world legal practice. Salzman adds, “From an associate perspective, this is great because they know we are all-in and investing in them. And, from a partner perspective, it’s incredibly valuable for us to have that insight into their capabilities so that we can continue to help invest in them and help get a return on our investment.” Moreover, the evaluations also highlight disparities in deal flow among associates in different offices. In cases where additional support is necessary, AltaClaro collaborates closely with firm partners like Salzman to offer one-on-one tutoring, personalized coaching, and extra classes, ensuring that no associate is left behind.
The AltaClaro training system has proven highly effective, with over 5,000 associates participating since 2022, achieving an impressive 85+% completion rate and a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 55+.
Expanding Across Practice Groups within Husch Blackwell
AltaClaro’s success didn’t go unnoticed within Husch Blackwell. Originally embraced by Kirstin Salzman within one practice group in January 2021, the positive buzz led to the adoption of AltaClaro’s training programs by additional practice areas, including Technology Transactions/IP, Finance/Lending, and Real Estate.
Wade Kerrigan, a Partner and Leader in the IP/Technology Transactions Group, and leader of the firm’s Practice Specialty Centers, particularly felt the impact of AltaClaro’s training in his areas of expertise, which mainly focus on technology, e-commerce, intellectual property, and M&A for healthcare, life sciences, and pharmaceutical industries. His team took advantage of AltaClaro’s new TechTrans/IP program, featuring courses that cover a wide range of topics such as Overview of Technology Transactions, Drafting & Negotiating SaaS Agreements and Drafting & Negotiating NDAs. Kerrigan commented, “There aren't many training solutions out there for training technology or IP transactions. If anything, there are some videos or lectures, but we all know that doesn’t work. Imagine trying to learn how to ride a bike or swim by attending lectures or watching videos. So, when I heard about AltaClaro’s approach I was intrigued. Then, when we had our associates go through their programs, I was really impressed and I noticed the results almost immediately.”
In the Overview of Technology Transactions course, associates get an introduction to key concepts in technology transactions, from understanding the differences between hardware vs. software agreements, to mastering the components of development, license, distribution and professional services agreements. In the Drafting & Negotiating SaaS Agreements course, associates learn how to draft and negotiate key SaaS agreement terms from the perspective of both the SaaS provider and subscriber, as well as cover service level agreements and global privacy and data security considerations.
In the NDA course, associates learn about the specific terms typically negotiated in the context of an NDA and the various contexts in which NDAs are typically used (including acquisitions, employment, partnerships, and joint ventures). Kerrigan shares that he was impressed in one instance where he had an associate mark up an NDA after taking AltaClaro’s class. He shares, “Typically, I’d have to spend a lot of time explaining what an NDA is, correct a lot of mistakes and end up reworking the agreement myself. But this time the associate marked up the NDA quickly and got all of the issues. I barely had to make any changes. That saved me a lot of time.”
What was unique about Kerrigan’s program was that he took his team’s participation to the next level by personally engaging in AltaClaro’s live training sessions. AltaClaro welcomed this opportunity as Kerrigan’s hands-on involvement fostered a richer learning environment and enhanced team building. “We brought folks together and the sessions served as an excellent platform for teamwork. Associates got to interact with our senior counsel and me, adding another dimension to their support network within the firm," Kerrigan noted.
Salzman and other practice group leaders then began to emulate Kerrigan’s approach by taking part in the live training sessions. This active participation by firm leaders has been a game changer, deepening the training experience for associates and fostering a more collaborative learning environment. AltaClaro welcomes this kind of partner involvement. While AltaClaro instructors lead and guide the feedback sessions, the presence of a senior lawyer adds invaluable context to the discussion since they can clarify firm-specific, or client-specific, nuances.
It can be challenging for partners to balance training time with their workloads. This can in turn impact the billable hours of senior team members. Developing up-to-date and effective training content can also be difficult, especially when professional development staff are unsure of how to tailor training to each individual's needs. “To develop courses as good as AltaClaro, it would take way too much time, “ Kerrigan remarked. “Because of AltaClaro, I have a better base of associates to do things the partners and senior associates should not be drafting or handling.”
On top of saving valuable partner time, AltaClaro also helped reduce client write-offs, which enhanced billable time realization. Kerrigan commented, “AltaClaro helped reduce write-offs because [associates] saw other good examples beyond the good examples we’ve shown them so they’ll spin their wheels a little less.”
“AltaClaro’s programs generate real ROI for our firm in three ways. First, they free up senior lawyer time to generate revenue. Second, they help eliminate write-offs from associate billings, and, finally, they enhance associate know-how. The latter is critical, as it allows us to keep associates. We invest a lot of money in associates through recruiting and training. So, with AltaClaro we are hitting all key drivers. We are hitting our revenue cycle at a high level. We are hitting our revenue cycle at the low level through less write-offs, and we are hitting our expenses. Human capital is our biggest expense. And, if we can keep and train people and make them good lawyers, that's the best investment we can make, and AltaClaro helps facilitate all of this for us.”
– Wade Kerrigan, a Partner and Leader in the IP/TechTrans Group
Looking for a Proven Legal Training Solution?
There’s a reason why firms such as K&L Gates, Holland & Knight, Orrick, Allen & Overy, and Ropes & Gray trust AltaClaro for their legal skills training.
With AltaClaro, you can get your associates billing sooner, increase training retention and engagement, and save on resources used for legal skills training. Our online boot camps help lawyers leverage technology and learn practical legal skills in a hybrid format through mock transactions and live feedback sessions with seasoned practitioners. From programs in M&A Transactions and Corporate Transactions to Capital Markets, Lending Transactions, Real Estate, and IP/Technology Transactions, our course catalog spans beginner to intermediate level classes.
Interested? Schedule a 30-minute consultation with one of our experts and learn how you can empower your associates to hit the ground running.