June 1, 2012

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Educating for the Future

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Utah Business Staff

June 1, 2012

SWINDLE: I’m not sure I agree totally with the lack of drive and entrepreneurial spirit of some of the law school students. Most of the young people that come into our firm really do have a desire to be successful and are driven and want to be as good as they can be. I didn’t always feel that way, but I’ve come full circle a little on that one.

On what you tell somebody about law school, my advice to a lot of young people is to get some kind of advanced degree before you go to law school. Get a master’s degree in engineering, environmental science, something that, coupled with your law degree, really sets you apart from the rest of the field.

HARMAN: What do you tell them, though, between the U and the Y and the top 10 law schools? I think that’s a hard question.

An employees’ son contacted me the other day. He’s been accepted to the U and the Y as well as some top-tier schools. He’s looking at about $190,000 in debt if he goes to a top-tier school. In today’s economy, with the job prospects and the salaries that aren’t the same as they have been, I’m not sure what you tell that kid. I think it’s different today maybe than what you told that kid 10 years ago.

BATEMAN: I tell them the U and the Y are the best deal you’re going to get. Wouldn’t you agree? Unless it’s Harvard, Stanford, Columbia.

LORIMER: But if you’re going to Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and coming back here, you’re not going to make any more money.

POS: Two points. One, as to the student who’s looking at Utah, BYU, or Harvard and Yale, you need to end up in the top 10, 15, 20 percent at BYU and Utah to compete with that Harvard student who can come into this town in the upper 50 percent and be competitive. You really need to buckle down in law school if you’re going to Utah/BYU and get the very best grades you can to compete with students who come from top-tier schools.

As to first-year associates, we’ve had a program in place since the early ‘90s, where we try to bring in students the first year out of law school and keep them through a training program for two years so that they know what we like. There’s an extensive writing program, research program, mentoring program. They meet our clients. The idea being that when they join the firm the first year, they hit the road running.

I can’t think of an associate in our firm in the last 10, 15 years who hasn’t been profitable to our firm in the first year. And it’s largely because of the mentoring and training program that we have at Parsons. That continues when you join the firm, too. It’s a program that continues in your early years as an associate. If you put that effort into young students and young lawyers, there’s a benefit you get out of it.

What are we doing to increase the diversity in our firms, in our profession?

HULSE: Our firm has, in each one of our offices, the Diversity Clerkship Program. The intent of it is to focus on those students that maybe are not going to have the opportunity to have a job at a big firm. So we purposely look a little lower down in class, look at people who come from diverse backgrounds that maybe are not going to have those opportunities to be in a larger firm environment. And we give them a clerkship opportunity where we pay them a stipend, just like we do with a regular clerk.

It gives them an opportunity to have contacts with our lawyers, to create relationships and have people to support and mentor them throughout their career. And we’ve actually had some people that have gotten offers at the firm for a permanent job because they were able to come in through this Diversity Clerkship Program, where they may not have otherwise met the standards.

When you get a stack of a thousand resumes, grades are going to be one of the things that knock you out. And some of these people have to work. They have to do things to make ends meet to get through law schools, so their grades suffer because of it. But we found that it really is a great opportunity for us to expand that ability to bring people into the firm that we wouldn’t otherwise see.

HARMAN: In our firm, we created a number of years ago a women’s lawyers group, which is a practice group within the firm. And they’re one of the most successful and energetic practice groups that we have. They market as a group, and they are on all of our committees. It’s been very successful.

We all try and compete for those types of students because it makes us look good when we have diversity in our firm. I don’t think that the firms here are opposed to diversity. But often there’s not as many candidates out there that meet the criteria that we’re looking for. And sometimes maybe we have to lower our criteria to get the diversity that we’re looking for.

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