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K&L Gates Adds ‘MBA’ Offering Popular at Wall Street Firms (1)

Feb. 10, 2020, 8:09 PMUpdated: Feb. 10, 2020, 9:31 PM

K&L Gates is taking a page out of some Wall Street firms’ playbooks and launching a “mini-MBA” program in an effort to bone up its associates’ business skills.

The two-day program for first and second year-associates in the U.S. will be led by K&L Gates lawyers with advanced business degrees, the global firm with more than 1,700 lawyers said.

While most Big Law firms pay their associates similar salaries, a newer competition has been heating up around the amenities firms provide their junior lawyers. Executive-style business training has been a popular offering among high-profit Wall Street firms, both as a way to educate associates and to alleviate client sticker-shock at those new lawyers’ billing rates.

“Investing in the development of talent is an important part of our culture and is one of K&L Gates’ top strategic priorities,” Amy Horn, K&L Gates’ chief of people and projects, said in a statement.

K&L Gates’ training programs are overseen by Chicago-based trial partner Desiree Moore, who is also the firm’s director of professional development. The firm has sought to make professional development programs more interactive. It recently launched a business development “science fair” that it says is designed to “cultivate creativity and intergenerational collaboration.” The firm also offers public speaking counseling and competitions.

The mini MBA program is for litigators and corporate lawyers, Moore said. It will include lessons on economics, financial accounting, and corporate finance and strategy.

“From a client standpoint, this sets us apart from firms that aren’t doing this type of training and it positions the young lawyers for success,” Moore said.

Some firms have partnered with business schools for training programs.

Milbank’s mid-year associates head to Harvard Business School for a week. Debevoise & Plimpton’s incoming associates spend three weeks in a full-time program put on by Columbia Business School and a Wall Street professional development firm, Training the Street. And Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in 2018 announced a partnership with Columbia Business School to put on an eight-day program for its first-year associates.

A number of associate business training programs were launched in 2011 after some legal departments complained about the high price of first-year associates in the wake of the Great Recession.

Big Law associates received pay raises in 2016 and again in 2018 to a starting salary of $190,000 a year. That also led to grumbling among general counsels who did not want firms to pass those raises through to their bills.

(Adds comment from Moore interview in paragraphs six and seven. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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