We assign new associates to one of our practice groups based on identified skills, their preferences and our needs. The practice groups provide new attorneys and attorneys new to the firm with support from those working on similar matters. While legal specialization is encouraged, many attorneys work in multiple areas and collaborate across practice groups, particularly when dictated by client needs.
More than 40 practice areas and industry groups.
At Downey Brand, our practice constantly evolves to meet the changing needs of our clients, business trends and the economy. One way that we have maintained a solid reputation for excellence in the practice of law and client service has been the ongoing training and development of our attorneys.
The firm has a formal training program in place to make sure our attorneys are proficient in all aspects of practicing law—from written discovery, to mediation and alternative dispute resolution, to negotiating and drafting agreements. We hold on-site seminars throughout the year that qualify for Continuing Legal Education credits. We also bring in outside presenters from accounting firms and the courts, for example, to expose our attorneys to a broader range of experience. In addition, we pay the cost for attorneys to pursue additional training outside the firm that is offered through bar associations and professional trade groups.
The first year at any law firm is full of new experiences, new colleagues and daily challenges. To make the first year more enjoyable and provide support from someone who was once in the same position, Downey Brand assigns new attorneys an associate who serves as a mentor for a one-year period. During that first year, the mentor assumes a "buddy" role and helps the new attorney to adjust to the firm and its culture. After that year, a partner mentor is assigned for a year. A partner mentor works with attorneys to promote professional skills and encourage career development. They also help to form professional relationships within the firm and within the business community.
Whether in the first year of practice or first year at Downey Brand, mentors give new attorneys opportunities for confidential discussions and honest advice. In addition to assigned mentors, the culture at Downey Brand is one where unofficial mentors quickly emerge and social bonds are easily formed on their own, making for a smooth adjustment to the firm.
In order to help associates and counsel meet their professional development goals, performance evaluations are conducted annually each fall by the partners in the associate’s practice group and any other partner or counsel the associate identifies to provide feedback through an evaluation. First year associates and lateral hires receive a mid-year evaluation as well as the fall evaluation. Evaluations constructively identify specific strengths and weaknesses with in order to improve legal skills and business judgment. Evaluating partners also use their experience with the associate to suggest professional development goals and milestones to be pursued in the upcoming year.
Associates are paid based on their class year at competitive rates using an automatic lockstep increase, with raises effective on January 1 of each year. Starting compensation for first-year associates, upon admission to the bar, is $110,000 per year. After six months of employment, associates can participate in our bonus system, which contains clearly articulated guidelines for annual bonuses. Partners may also choose to award “spot bonuses” at any time during the year to recognize excellence, diligence, or an outstanding result.
Downey Brand provides, at the firm's expense, the following benefits to all attorneys who are employed a minimum of 30 hours a week:
401(k) plan with employer match
Employer contribution plan
Paid and unpaid parental leave
Employee parking or transportation allowance
Vacation (three weeks per year)
Relocation expense reimbursement
Pre-tax flexible spending account
Short and long term disability insurance
Employee assistance program
Firm retreat and other social events
Bar-Related Expenses for New Associates
If you accept the firm's offer of employment prior to taking the bar exam, we will reimburse you for documented expenses customarily incurred when taking the exam. The firm also provides a $3,500 bar study stipend to all incoming fall associates.