How Do Law Firm Fellowships Work?
Over the past several years, the legal market has not exactly been bustling with fortune for recent law school graduates. With the dismal outlook in mind, some hopeful, aspiring attorneys have turned to launching their own law practices. However, this venture can prove to be daunting in and of itself, especially in markets glutted with recent graduates. The competition tends to be brutal, in some cases just as much so as seeking out a job in BigLaw. Fortunately, law schools have been working hard to develop programs to provide their graduates with the tools they will need to start a successful law firm so that they may opt out of the rat race that is the current legal market.
These programs are often called law firm fellowships, or perhaps more affectionately, law firm incubators, aptly named for their efforts to sustain the efforts of law students eager to begin their careers. Currently, fifteen law schools in the United States have adopted the incubator model. Law firm incubators are easily confused with legal clinics, although they have their differences. When a law school graduate participates in an incubator program, he or she manages heavy case loads with little to no guidance for a supervising attorney. This model is useful because the point of the incubator is to help graduates become skillful at managing their law firm. Graduates tend to stay with the incubator from anywhere from 12 to 18 months and receive compensation for their work, which may aid them as they transition to their own private practice, or at least a small one.
If you are interested in starting your own law firm and have the drive, energy, and independence to manage one, participating in a law school incubator program may be a step in the right direction for you. However, bear in mind that such a career path may not be for everyone and so you should think extensively before leaping into an endeavor that might not match your own career goals and personal strengths. The law firm incubator should not be used as a refuge from the difficult job market. If such a career option is not right for you, do not force yourself into it simply to avoid facing the competition of the legal field. If you are sure that the incubator is a good fit for you, you should take the following steps to further evaluate your options:
1. Consider practice area.
First, consider what area of law you wish to practice. In most cases, incubator programs focus on the areas of law in which clients are undeserved and are in urgent need of legal assistance, often unable to pay for it themselves without substantial aid. Such areas include immigration, family law, and disability rights. If these areas of interest to you, then a law firm incubator may well be a step in the right direction. Such a program can help you hone your skills and gain first-hand experience in an area in which you are passionate. However, if you are more interested in areas such as corporate law or government regulation, a law firm incubator may not be able to offer you the assistance you may need. You would be better served seeking out government agencies in need of associates.
2. Consider Your Place in Potential Firm Management.
Another thing you should consider is if you are interested in starting your own firm or if you would rather assist in managing a small firm. Incubators tend to be designed specifically to train their participants for the business aspect of running a law firm. Such training may include lessons in accounting, tax compliance and malpractice prevention, and the general mechanisms of running a law firm. If you wish to run your own firm, such skills are essential; therefore, participating in an incubator program could be invaluable. If you are not interested in running your own firm, or if your own interests do not require much business expertise, such an extensive program may be a waste of time that would be better spent preparing you for the work you do wish to pursue.
In conclusion, bear in mind that law firm incubators are not for everyone, especially anxious law school graduates who lack direction and are afraid to face the legal market. If you need guidance of any kind, you would probably be better served by reaching out to your law firm’s career center. For those who are sure that they want to pursue their own firm, however, law firm incubators are a step in the right direction, in that they provide graduates with resources and opportunities that might not otherwise be available.
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Are you an attorney looking for a new position? Do you need some assistance in improving your resume or job search? If so, contact a Career Counselor with Lexacount Search’s Career Consulting Services. Or, if you are interested in learning more about attorney or other roles in the legal industry, contact a Search Consultant from Lexacount Search’s Legal Group.