The Value of Experience--and Training

Kathy Fortin

September 24, 2018

The Value of Experience – and Training

When I think back to the days when I was fresh out of college and a graduate degree program, but with no working experience, I remember how badly I wanted a career with a law firm and did not know how I would get my start. Though I had academic credentials to back me up, what else could I offer? I was eager and ready to learn. I did not think about the fact that meant I needed someone to teach me! I started work at that law firm and, with excellent teaching and training, I stayed at that firm for 25 years.

While consulting with lawyers today, I hear them talk about “experience” in several ways. They want to hire a younger lawyer, though one who has some experience. They often seek a 3 to 5 year range of experience. They also say they do not want to take the time to teach and train. The hiring topic often causes them uncertainty and frustration. Unsuccessful past hires fuel the anxiety. However, the process does not necessarily portend a bad outcome.

A few things to think about when you are seeking a new hire:

  1. An inexperienced lawyer can make a great addition, if you do due diligence. Talk to references and request writing samples. If you are willing to train andhave paralegals and staff on board, there are great benefits to grooming your own new associate.
  2. Even lawyers with 1, 2 or 4 years’ experience need ongoing training and teaching, mentoring and grooming. There is no way to get around it. No one walks in the door knowing everything you want them to. You have to make an investment of your time and knowledge.
  3. Prepare for your screening calls and interviews and write down the key questions that will help you judge what it will take you and others to get the hire up to speed. No two candidates are the same and each will have different requirements to succeed.
  4. Get other views to help your assessment. It is often a good idea to involve the staff and others in the firm to meet the candidate and offer their input. They can make observations you might not make, whether positive or negative.
  5. Do not make quick decisions, even if you have only the one candidate. Always do a second interview. It gives the candidate the opportunity to know you better, and ask questions.  It does the same for you.


The hiring process is difficult. I know of no hiring lawyer who enjoys it. It involves hard work, time spent away from client work, and can cause feelings of insecurity about how to do it well and how to choose, and questions about salary and benefits. The process is a challenging prospect for everyone involved.  I have always believed there are a lot of good people out there; many of them just looking for a chance, like I was. Know what you want and need and then put in the best recruiting effort you can and involve others to help you. Remember-- you have to train. There is no way around it.