Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz is committed to continuing education and career advancement for its attorneys. Through its Professional Development programs, the Firm strives to
- Nurture the drive, increase the knowledge, and hone the skills necessary for our attorneys to reach and remain at the top of their profession;
- Enhance career satisfaction;
- Foster friendships and teamwork among attorneys across the firm;
- Keep the focus on client service; and
- Develop future firm leaders.
To meet these goals, we provide a variety of training and career development opportunities.
Orientation. Every fall, our newest attorneys gather for an orientation retreat in one of our offices. In addition to learning more about the Firm and getting oriented to the practice of law, participants begin developing connections throughout the Firm. Topics include Firm history, structure, management, and economics; client service and satisfaction; secretary, staff, and paralegal relations; practice tips; a writing workshop; and a client counseling workshop.
Litigation. We offer three learning-by-doing workshops for litigation associates: Deposition Skills, Advanced Deposition Skills, and Trial Advocacy. Associates from around the Firm travel to one location to work in small teams. Instructors provide tips, demonstrations, and feedback.
We also offer a comprehensive series of monthly lunch programs for litigation associates, which address specific aspects of the litigation process. Speakers talk about their strategies, give examples from their experience, and provide forms, checklists, and other useful tools. Examples of topics are selecting, engaging, and examining expert witnesses; evaluating your case; jury selection; and trial technology.
Business Law. Our two transactional learning-by-doing workshops – Due Diligence and Contract Negotiation and Drafting – bring transactional associates together from around the Firm to work in small teams. Firm shareholders serve as instructors and coaches for the teams.
We also offer monthly lunch programs for business associates, which address interdisciplinary topics (such as what business lawyers need to know about bankruptcy or employment discrimination) and transactional issues and processes (such as letters of intent and due diligence). Speakers focus on planning, decision-making, problem-solving, and drafting to meet clients’ objectives.
PracticeAdvance. This innovative series addresses the business side of law practice. Topics include client service, client development, time management, communication and presentation skills, career planning, and ethics. “Great Reads,” “Taking Control of Your Nonbillable Time,” and “Planning for the Rest of Your Career” are examples of past programs.
The PracticeAdvance Leaders’ series is designed for shareholders, counsel, and senior associates to inspire and teach better supervising, mentoring, training, and feedback practices.
Practice Group Meetings and Retreats. The Firm’s practice groups often present programs during their meetings, addressing advanced topics and cutting-edge issues in their practice areas.
Outside CLE Programs
In addition in-house programs, Firm attorneys attend continuing legal education programs offered by local and national organizations, so that they may satisfy their CLE requirements, enhance their specialties, and network. The Firm is a Privileged Member of the Practising Law Institute, one of the nation’s largest and most respected providers of continuing legal education. This PLI membership allows our attorneys and paralegals to attend seminars, watch live webcasts or on-demand programs, or download MP3s at no charge.
Associates in their first three years of practice have allowances of “Shadowing Time” to ensure opportunities to participate in client meetings, negotiations, closings, depositions, court proceedings, and the like early in their careers. Shadowing Time gives the associates billable credit even when the shadowing activity cannot be billed to the client.
Associates have at least one mentor from the time they join the Firm. Each new attorney is assigned an orientation mentor for the first year, who is usually a senior associate in the same office and practice area. Then the associates nominate candidates – usually shareholders – to serve as their mentors going forward. Lateral associates are also assigned mentors and may nominate different mentors as their needs change.
In addition to their individual mentors, associates in their first three years of practice are assigned an Associate Advisor, usually located in the associate’s home office. Each Advisor works with a small group of associates, their mentors, local shareholders, and the associates’ Practice Group Leaders to advance the associates’ professional development. The Advisors conduct group and individual coaching, assist with training, help the associates gain diverse work experience, and provide feedback.
Associates are evaluated at least once each year. In addition to the written annual reviews, the Associate Advisors provide informal mid-year reviews for the associates in their groups. The associates also complete self-assessments to ensure that their Associate Advisors, Practice Group Leaders, and Firm management are aware of their accomplishments and challenges.