Lauletta Birnbaum Reflects on Success of Apprenticeship Program

Jul 10, 2018   //   by rford   //   News  //  Comments Off


SEWELL, NJ and PHILADELPHIA, PA – While big law firms compete to pay the highest salary to first year lawyers, Lauletta Birnbaum reflects on a different path it took over eight years ago, when it accepted its first young lawyer into its 2-year Commercial Law Apprenticeship Program.

Partners Frank Lauletta and Lloyd Birnbaum, founders of business boutique firm Lauletta Birnbaum, LLC, both came from large national law firms.  Although they still value the training and experience they received in the large law firm model, they knew that their firm’s middle market clients could not and would not pay the billable rates that large law firms charge for inexperienced attorneys.

“Big law firms compete to secure the best and brightest law school graduates with higher compensation; this means higher billable rates for young associates, which means higher legal fees for clients,” said Frank Lauletta. “If you’re one of the few graduates lucky enough to land one of those high-paying jobs, then take it. The compensation plus the Big Law experience makes it worth it.”

“However,” Lauletta continued, “there are great young applicants that just miss the large law firm cut and their main concern is – or at least it should be – to gain quality experience and training to help propel them into a long and successful legal career.”

Frank and Lloyd recognized a problem for hard-working recent graduates: despite being at the top of their class, they could not land a Big Law position because the competition is so stiff. At the same time, middle-market businesses – lacking the deep pockets of major corporations – were struggling to find the high-quality legal representation they demand.  The Apprenticeship Program was a response to these two problems. Instead of promising top compensation, the Firm promises to focus on training – not only in the law, but also in the business of law. The Firm doesn’t want associates in the Program to worry about billable hours or how much revenue they generate. Instead, said Lauletta, “we want them to focus on learning what makes clients happy, such as lightning fast response times, setting reasonable expectations, delivering what we say we are going to deliver on time, and of course quality work product.  As young attorneys in our Program begin to develop these qualities, they start to work directly with clients to hone their communication skills.”

The Program is a win-win for both attorneys and clients.  The Firm bills its first-year associates in the Program at $155/hour, well below even paralegal rates at most large Philadelphia firms.

Since its inception in 2010, ten attorneys have completed the Program; six of those ten attorneys still work for Lauletta Birnbaum, and one recently made partner. As for the participants who left the Firm, Lloyd Birnbaum said: “we are extremely proud that they have used our platform to propel themselves into top-notch positions around the country.” Indeed, they have been quite successful; among them is a general counsel of a large corporation, an attorney at an international law firm, a Judge Advocate for the U.S. Army, and an attorney at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Concluded Birnbaum, “It’s really exciting to see all of our participants thriving because it confirms the success of the vision we had over eight years ago.”

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