December 11, 2013

Chicago-based law firm Much Shelist recently announced it has added Peter Shepard to the firm’s thriving apprentice program. Launched in March 2012, and the first of its kind in Chicago, the program gives first-year lawyers hands-on legal experience, extensive training and mentoring from principal attorneys across the firm’s diverse practice areas for a 12-month period. This model is proving to be a successful alternative to traditional junior-level hiring at midsize law firms, where summer programs have been a challenge due to availability of resources to assure their success.

Traditionally facing demanding billable hour requirements, first- or second-year associates typically lack the flexibility to attend numerous training seminars and learn from partners by observing depositions, arbitrations, hearings, trials, negotiation conferences, and more. In addition, as cost pressures have mounted in recent years, clients have balked at paying for first- or second-year associates’ work, and job scarcity has resulted in a drop in law school enrollments and an overall disillusionment among students about law as a career.

“Much Shelist’s apprentice program serves as a positive alternative to address these issues,” said Mitchell S. Roth, the firm’s Managing Partner. “It allows us to train young lawyers in diverse areas and help them identify a place where they can be successful and excel. They can also learn culturally how to navigate around a law firm. Our apprentices have no billable requirements, which gives them ample time to shadow experienced attorneys and gain exposure to a broad array of legal disciplines. Also, it helps us keep clients happy with significantly lower billing rates as the apprentices progress towards being accretive on various client matters.”

Shepard has worked on a variety of legal matters, including defamation, employment discrimination, and mortgage issues. Prior to joining Much Shelist, he served as a judicial extern for the Honorable Ronald A. Guzman for the Northern District of Illinois, and worked as a mortgage foreclosure mediation intern for the Chicago Legal Clinic. He received a J.D. (magna cum laude) from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and a B.A. from Hamilton College. He will receive an M.B.A. from Loyola University Chicago Quinlan School of Business in February 2014.

To date, the Much Shelist apprentice program has yielded talented attorneys, including Caroline E. Belloff, who was promoted to a full-time associate in the firm’s Business & Finance practice group in January 2013, and Melisande C. Loeppert, who began her apprenticeship in February 2013. Belloff came to Much Shelist convinced that litigation was her passion, but she is now entering her third year in the firm’s corporate M&A practice.

“I am still shocked by how much I enjoy practicing corporate law,” said Belloff. “Until Much Shelist provided me with the opportunity to spend one year experiencing a broad base of legal areas, it had never crossed my mind that I would become anything other than a litigator.”

Much Shelist made the decision a number of years ago to take a break from the traditional summer associate program as a pipeline for young attorneys, and many other firms have also pared down these programs or eliminated them.

Roth added, “We have found that the apprenticeship approach works better for firms of our size because we are well suited to train and develop young attorneys eager to learn about various facets of the law, in an environment with less bureaucracy and more options for hands-on experience. The program also helps young attorneys appreciate and champion the profession, something that certainly has been lost over the last five years. We want to convey to young up-and-coming professionals how rewarding a law career can be, and why they should aspire to work in our profession. If it doesn't work out with Much Shelist, we offer outplacement to our apprentices to keep them in the field, hoping our profession remains attractive in the future.”