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March 20, 2024

How New Gen Partners Can Empower New Gen Associates Through Training & Mentoring

Gone are the days when new associates had to navigate their professional journey with limited guidance. The legal landscape is undergoing a transformative shift, largely due to the innovative influence of a new generation of partners. These forward-thinking mentors are reshaping the way new generation associates are trained and mentored. This seismic shift is not just about abandoning outdated practices; it’s about embracing a holistic approach that fosters growth, leverages technology, and prioritizes the well-being and development of new lawyers. 

In this blog, we'll explore how new gen partners are empowering new gen associates through modern training methods and meaningful mentorship, setting a new standard for the legal industry.


Understanding the Generational Shift

The traditional model of training and mentoring in law firms epitomized the "going uphill both ways" mentality, deeply rooted in an apprenticeship approach. In this old method, new associates were expected to learn primarily by shadowing and assisting more seasoned attorneys, often with minimal structured guidance or formal training. This sink or swim approach created a steep learning curve for newcomers, with a significant emphasis on learning by doing real client work in the deep end.

Recently, however, law firms are recognizing the urgent need to adapt to generational shifts. According to the annual Associates Survey conducted by The American Lawyer, today’s young associates express a clear desire for specific, hands-on instruction tailored to the tasks at hand. At the same time, according to Law.com’s New Partners survey, many partners are reluctant to take on the additional work of training new associates and don’t want to pass the cost of training associates onto their clients. 

Enter a new generation of partners—a group of leaders who want to break the cycle, bringing fresh perspectives, innovative thinking, and a commitment to fostering a supportive work environment. They recognize the importance of nurturing talent, encouraging continuous learning, and providing the tools and resources necessary for young lawyers to thrive. This shift isn’t merely a trend but a response to the evolving legal landscape, with Millennials projected to account for 75% of legal department employees by 2025, according to another Law.com survey. This growing majority brings a clear demand for the tools and support necessary to succeed at their jobs, underscoring the urgent need for law firms to adapt their training and support structures to foster a more engaging work environment for the new generation.


New Generation Training Methods

As the legal industry evolves, so too do the methodologies employed to train new associates. The new generation of partners, attuned to the shifting dynamics and preferences of their younger colleagues, are pioneering innovative approaches to legal training. 

One of the most successful training approaches being adopted today is guiding associates from theoretical learning to practical application in a structured manner. This systematic approach consists of three stages—Learn, Do, Review—ensuring that associates build upon a solid understanding of legal principles before engaging directly with real-world scenarios.

  1. Learn: In the Learn stage, participants engage with core legal principles and concepts through interactive video lectures and quizzes. This initial phase is critical as it ensures that participants have a thorough and engaging understanding of the basics. 
  2. Do: Here, associates apply the concepts they've learned to mock transactions and simulations. This hands-on approach allows participants to navigate real-world-like scenarios, challenging them to think critically and apply their legal knowledge in a controlled, yet dynamic environment. 
  3. Review: In this phase, participants receive expert review and live feedback on their work. This feedback is invaluable, as it not only reinforces the learning but also highlights areas requiring further improvement, honing legal skills to professional standards. 

This shift towards more innovative and effective training methods marks a significant departure from the traditional “going uphill both ways” approach that has defined legal training. This evolution recognizes the demands of the current generation of lawyers, highlighting a dedication to nurturing and developing new associates. 


The Evolution of Mentorship

Historically, mentorship in the legal profession mirrored a classic apprenticeship, with a seasoned partner taking a new associate under their wing, guiding them through the nuances of client work and firm culture. This traditional approach, reminiscent of the "going uphill both ways" mentality, has been foundational but often limited in scope and effectiveness.

Today, as the legal industry continues to adapt to changing demands and a more dynamic work environment, the concept of mentorship has undergone significant transformation. Partners are becoming more efficient, focusing on creating supportive environments while increasingly outsourcing the nuts and bolts of training to specialized partners. This shift allows for a more structured and diverse learning experience for new associates, aligning with modern career development strategies.

According to the Bloomberg Law 2024 series, the changing landscape of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in law firms and corporations underscores the evolving role of mentorship. As traditional DEI strategies face new challenges, mentorship has emerged as a critical component in maintaining robust diversity programs. Effective mentorship fosters a sense of belonging among attorneys, which is pivotal in retaining diverse talent and reducing turnover.

According to Bloomberg Law’s Attorney Workload & Hours survey, there are significant correlations between attorneys feeling a sense of belonging at work and having mentors, friends, and open communication within their organization. This data underscores the importance of structured mentorship programs that not only provide guidance and support but also help cultivate a culture of inclusivity and connectivity among colleagues.

Despite the shifts in training methods, mentorship remains a cornerstone of professional development in the legal field. The data suggests that newer attorneys, in particular, benefit from having mentors, indicating that legal organizations are making strides in this area. However, with nearly half of all surveyed attorneys lacking a mentor at work, there is still ample room for improvement.


There’s a reason why firms such as K&L Gates, Holland & Knight, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, 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 free 30-minute consultation with one of our experts and learn how you can empower your associates to hit the ground running.

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