It is never too early to start thinking about life after graduation. Here are answers to some of the questions we are asked most about associate life at Farella Braun + Martel.
What kind of work will I do as an Associate?
What kind of training and mentoring woes Farella Braun + Martel offer?
How will I know how I’m doing?
What Kind of Work Will I do as an Associate?
Incoming associates are usually assigned to a particular practice group and generally work on matters within that practice group, but there may be opportunities to work on matters in other practice areas as well, depending on their interests and the firm’s needs.
Associates at Farella Braun + Martel tend to get more substantive work experiences earlier in their career because we leanly staff our matters. Our Practice Group Leaders and Professional Development Director coordinate work assignments so that our associates obtain the hands-on experiences they need to grow as attorneys. Matching our associates’ interests with our clients’ needs benefits both associates and clients, so we encourage our associates to talk to partners and the Professional Development Director about the types of work that interest them most.
“In my first year, I took eight depositions – what an experience!"
“I've gotten much more brief writing experience and opportunities to ‘have a say’ on case strategy than a lot of people I know at the other big firms. By my second year, I'd drafted numerous motions, appeared in court, and gone to trial on a contempt motion. Associates here get substantive experience on challenging, interesting cases (which I think is rare).”
“Farella has a full-time workflow coordinator who manages assignments and matches the right work to the right skill set. I couldn’t believe how much of a difference it makes to have someone help with these decisions, but it really does. In addition, having a person available for professional development advice when you need it is fantastic.”
TRAINING AND MENTORING
What Kind of Training & Career Development Does Farella Braun + Martel Offer?
Developing our associates’ skills is a cornerstone to our success as a firm. We have always taken a broad view of the skills that define a successful attorney. We want our associates to excel in their core legal skills, while also learning how to develop close relationships with clients, become leaders in the community, and make our firm a great place to work.
To clarify how to grow as an attorney in all these areas, we developed written guidelines that summarize the types of experiences and skills we want associates in each of our practice areas to obtain at different stages of their careers. To assist our associates in meeting those milestones, at the start of each year partners help associates write professional development plans that outline associates’ development goals, and during the year partners collaborate with associates on how they can achieve those goals.
While we pride ourselves on associates learning their craft by working side-by-side with partners, we support that with in-depth, continuing education programs. Our Farella 101 courses for entry-level associates and recent laterals covers the nuts and bolts of practicing law, from tips for a successful first year to motion practice, discovery, and persuasive writing. Associates’ training continues as they become more senior, with programs that include our in-house public speaking, negotiation, deposition, and trial skills workshops.
“This program was, in a word, amazing. And I know having the opportunity to try our case to a jury, before a judge with great trial experience, and with the guidance and coaching of many partners at the firm is what made it amazing. I am grateful for everybody's time and effort and the firm's commitment to its associates.”
“I am proud to work at a firm that invests so much in its associates. The top-notch training we receive is always something I tout to our summer associate and lateral candidates, and it was only reinforced during this fantastic training.”
To further hone our associates’ skills and serve our community, we provide associates with approved pro bono opportunities, which count the same as billable work. We also encourage associates to participate in The Bar Association of San Francisco and other professional organizations to increase their substantive knowledge and develop their practices.
In 2007, we hired an attorney as our Professional Development Director to design and manage our attorney development program, which includes training, mentoring, performance reviews, career counseling, and work assignments. The Director works closely with our Professional Development Committee, which is co-chaired by an associate and partner and is tasked with continuously reviewing and improving our attorney development program. Because we believe that successful attorneys never stop learning, associates on the committee run our partner review process, in which associates share their confidential feedback about partners’ supervision, case management, and mentoring. The committee also serves as a forum for associates and partners to discuss firm policies and support the firm’s many team-building and community-service projects. Our Firm Chair also meets regularly with the committee’s Associate Chair, along with hosting informal, question-and-answer meetings that all associates are invited to attend.
What Kind Of Mentoring Will I Receive?
First and foremost, the firm believes that mentoring should happen on every matter on which an associate works. Partners are evaluated on the quality of their mentoring, and the firm expects every assignment to be a learning opportunity for an associate.
We supplement these mentoring relationships that develop while attorneys work together with a formal mentorship program. Every associate is assigned to a mentoring circle—a small group of five or six associates led by a partner who serves as a sounding board and adviser. These partners help the associates in their circles write yearly professional development plans, advise them how to align their personal goals with the firm’s and our clients’ needs, and collaborate with them on how to achieve their goals. Our mentoring circles also foster peer-based mentoring relationships, as each circle includes associates of different seniority from different practice groups; junior associates receive guidance and support from more senior associates, who develop their own mentoring skills in the circles.
When new associates first arrive at the firm, we assign them a senior or mid-level associate peer mentor. These peer mentors help new associates transition into the firm by regularly checking in with them during their first few months, answering their questions, and helping to introduce them to other attorneys and staff.
For a many years now, we’ve had additional, informal mentoring programs for diverse and women associates. Our Diversity Committee meets every two months, hosts informal get-togethers for diverse attorneys, and leads an outreach program that helps introduce diverse associates to our clients. The Women’s Leadership Committee provides support and mentoring for women associates. In our “Moms Making it Work” group, working mothers meet to discuss practical ways to continue the firm’s tradition of combining successful careers with happy families.
We support all these mentoring programs by training our attorneys on how to be effective mentors and mentees. Supporting and encouraging associates to form broad networks of mentoring relationships benefits our firm as a whole by creating a strong foundation for our close-knit culture, collaborative working environment, and tradition of personalized client service.
How Will I Know How I am Doing?
We believe that substantive, regular feedback is vital to the development and advancement of our associates. So we train our partners how to share their informal feedback and our associates how to ask for this feedback. We encourage a work environment imbued with open communication and continuous learning.
To ensure that associates receive specific and detailed feedback about their current work and guidance for their future development, we give two performance reviews each year to our new entry-level and lateral associates, and annual reviews to our associates who have worked at the firm for more than two years. In these reviews, associates receive detailed written feedback from the partners they’ve worked with, which each associate discusses with two partners, including, generally, the associate’s Practice Group Leader or Department Chair. In these review meetings, the partners discuss the written comments, solicit the associate’s input, and confer about goals to focus on in the next review period.