Professional Development and Training at Taft
Cathy E. Howard
Director of Professional Development and Records Management
It’s about more than just learning to practice law.
Whether you are an experienced attorney, a recent law school graduate or a summer associate, Taft is invested in your professional development and committed to providing you with the tools and resources to succeed throughout your career.
As an attorney at Taft, you will participate in three formal, in-house training programs: Keystone, Catalyst and Pathway. These programs are tailored to help our associates reach career milestones and equip them with the skills needed to succeed in the legal industry. While Keystone specifically targets an associate's writing skills, Catalyst provides extensive training in writing, business development, ethics, wellness, public speaking and more. Pathway, designed for associates in their second year, provides a more in-depth focus on business development, wellness and ethics. Additionally, associates receive ongoing feedback from partners in their practice groups to help them successfully integrate into the firm and determine individual goals.
“Our associates’ success is a top priority at Taft,” shares Chief Human Resources Officer Pam Krivda. “Training and professional development opportunities begin on an associate’s first day—from being provided with an internal network of attorneys who are go-to resources to formal training with the best in-house lawyers and experts in the industry. Both as a firm and as your colleagues, Taft is deeply invested in the growth and success of its attorneys.”
Are you a law student or recent graduate looking for a supportive team and great place to work? Visit our Careers page to learn more about Taft’s culture and our current openings.
All summer associates participate in Keystone, Taft’s summer writing program. As part of the program, associates receive assignments that allow them to showcase their writing skills and identify areas for growth. Participants meet with a partner-reviewer, who provides in-depth feedback on the assignments and offers strategies for refinement. Keystone gives summer associates the tools for a successful internship and a strong foundation for those who return to Taft as associates.
“Keystone helped me develop my legal writing skills by providing me with valuable tips, resources and feedback that I will continue to use throughout my legal career,” states Keystone participant Maria Castro-Reece. “It helped me transition from the type of writing required in law school to the type of writing required in legal practice. Receiving detailed feedback about my writing skills from a partner helped me set clear expectations, made me feel more confident about my ability to meet those expectations, and demonstrated to me that Taft is committed to my growth as a legal professional.”
Our first-year attorneys participate in the Catalyst program, which begins with a comprehensive overview of the firm and the practice of law. Catalyst meetings are in-person and give first-year associates from all of our offices an opportunity to build community with one another. The first day of training focuses on Taft resources—such as office and practice group contacts, the path to partnership, and the firm’s culture—as well as more in-depth topics including marketing, practice group-specific skills and best practices.
After orientation, first-year attorneys receive additional training from senior associates, partners and others in the firm three times during their first year, each time at a different office. The training focuses on public speaking, professional responsibility and resiliency. To help facilitate community building, the group also meets for a social event before each session.
At the end of the first year, Taft collects detailed feedback from participants to identify ways to continuously refine and improve the Catalyst program for participating attorneys. The Catalyst program is strongly influenced by associate feedback, and many first-year associates report that the program greatly aided their transition from law school to the professional practice.
“Catalyst helped me grow from a law school graduate into a professional, polished new attorney,” shares Catalyst program graduate Devin Spencer. “The program covered topics that new lawyers are sometimes scared to ask about, including the practical topics that come up daily as a new associate—from email etiquette to interacting with clients, paralegals and staff. Catalyst teaches the things you don't learn in law school, but that are so important to being a successful lawyer.”
Taft offers training opportunities to associates after their first year of practice through its Pathway program. Pathway provides continued training on business development, professional responsibility and practice group-specific skills.
One of our lecture series, “Don’t Dabble,” gives associates a glimpse into highly specialized practice areas and identifies situations where an attorney may wade into ethical issues. Associates also complete online courses on topics specific to their practice and interests through PLI, the firm’s online CLE provider.
“With Pathway, we are giving our associates continued support as they progress through their careers,” says Taft's Director of Professional Development and Records Management Cathy Howard. “We want the supportive experience from Catalyst to continue, while also encouraging our attorneys to create and follow their own paths to success. This program provides a guide for continued growth while allowing associates the freedom to dictate their development in skills and practice areas.”
- Mentoring program. To help associates grow in their careers, Taft offers a formal mentoring program. Each new associate is matched with a mentoring team that includes a partner and an associate. A mentoring team becomes an associate's go-to resource for on-going career support and to answer questions related to the legal industry, client matters, Taft's culture and more. After the first year, associates can choose new partner mentors annually so they may identify mentors that best suits their needs and build relationships throughout the firm.
- Online and CLE training. PLI, the firm’s online CLE provider, gives all attorneys access to online courses to help in their ongoing professional development. Additionally, each office and many practice groups host both in-person and teleconference CLE events throughout the year, including lunchtime programs and day-long learning opportunities in a variety of practice areas.
- Individual development plans. Taft creates individualized development plans for associates who need or request them. These plans include setting and tracking goals, identifying additional training opportunities and providing other needed resources. Each plan is tailored to fit an individual associate’s specific needs and goals.