Virtual First-Year Programs Integrate Connection and Culture

Fenwick chief talent officer Neha Shah Nissen spoke with Bloomberg Law about welcoming and onboarding the firm’s 2020 first-year associate class, who started work remotely on October 19, 2020.

Nissen noted that while many firms have postponed their first-year associate class start dates to 2021, Fenwick’s technology and life sciences clients have been exceptionally busy—keeping the firm busy as well—and that the firm’s first-year class has been able to ramp up quickly, working on exciting and challenging client work.

She also noted that while there is no replacement for face-to-face interaction, Fenwick has been distinctly focused on the needs of these new hires, who are often just beginning their careers after law school.

“It’s not just about getting on a Zoom,” she said. “But it was, how do we help them engage when they’re on that Zoom meeting and seeing all the squares across the screen?”

Grace Fernandez, a member of Fenwick’s first-year class, also spoke to Bloomberg Law about her experience graduating from law school, studying for and passing the bar exam, and starting her new role at Fenwick in a remote setting.

According to Fernandez, the incoming first-year class were preassigned a selection of matters so that they could make connections with colleagues with whom they are working from the outset. Fenwick also organized virtual interactive events—including scavenger hunts, cooking classes and painting classes—to give the new team members an opportunity to bond and learn about one another in an informal way.

“The firm is really trying to keep its culture alive,” Fernandez said.

Fenwick’s small cohort approach to training and mentoring its first-year class has a lot to do with its ability to foster this culture, which Nissen also spoke to Reuters and The American Lawyer about earlier this fall.

The full article is available on Bloomberg Law (subscription required).


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