We keep our billable hour target at the moderate level of 1850 hours per year in an effort to allow our young attorneys to successfully balance their professional and personal lives. While some firms will advertise a low billable hours requirement only to assign more work than can reasonably be accomplished within that number of hours, we believe in making our target of 1850 hours our true expectation. We find that this target maximizes each attorney's work product without compromising quality.
We hire each law student and attorney with the presumption that he or she will develop quickly and become a shareholder of the firm. Our attorneys are considered eligible for election to shareholder after 4.5 years at the firm. This short 'partnership track' is designed to maximize harmony between our younger and more senior attorneys as well as to reward our associates for developing the skills necessary to practice law on their own. We strive to train and mentor our youngest attorneys by providing them with as much responsibility as possible. We find that the best training is provided when young attorneys have their own cases and deals with a reasonable, but not intrusive, level of supervision and mentorship. Associates are assigned mentors to help assure rapid proffessional development. In short, we want our associates to develop into the best within their areas of practice.
Belin McCormick recruits nationally. We strive to attract and hire the best candidates in Iowa and from top national law schools. In addition to graduates of the University of Iowa and Drake University law schools, we count among our attorneys graduates of the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown, Duke, Columbia, NYU, Boston College, and the University of California at Berkeley law schools. We are actively engaged in an effort to increase diversity in our workplace, and would encourage interested minorities and women to apply.
Successful applicants will often have distinguished themselves within their law school communities through their involvement in various activities outside of the classroom, including but not limited to serving on their law school's law review, competing in their school's most prestigious moot court competition, earning an advanced degree in addition to a law degree, completing a judicial clerkship, etc. We view each candidate individually and base our hiring decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Our summer program is designed to provide law students with a realistic picture of what it is like to work as an attorney at Belin McCormick. The firm does not place an emphasis on billing, however. Instead, the primary goal of the summer program is to provide summer associates with a learning experience.
We focus our summer program on students completing their first year at law school. Our summer associates will still be in the process of choosing a practice area. Accordingly, we attempt to provide a broad range of projects to help the summer associate decide what areas of law are of most interest. Our summer associates are given real work, including the opportunity to draft briefs, motions and contracts, in addition to more traditional research and writing projects. Summer associates receive exposure to all areas of the firm’s practice. While we try to tailor the summer experience as much as possible to a student's declared areas of interest, we believe it is important that our summer associates work with as many of our attorneys as possible. In recognition of this fact and because of our belief that practical experience is one of the best things we can provide, out-of-office learning opportunities are emphasized. We try to assure that each of our summer associates has the opportunity to observe portions of a trial, hearings, depositions, business closings, real estate closings and alternative dispute resolution proceedings. In addition, we routinely include our summer associates in client meetings and try to give them as much client contact as possible.
We also provide strong mentoring to our summer associates to serve as a resource during the summer and ensure that our summer associates receive valuable work experience and meet with all attorneys in the firm.
The summer program is not limited to work and legal training. As part of the summer program, we attempt to integrate our summer associates into the social lives of our attorneys through a series of annual firm social events, in addition to informal events. The firm's annual social events include a golf tournament, minor-league baseball games, a firm-wide picnic and a lobster party.
In addition to hiring students directly out of law school, Belin McCormick has also had a great deal of success with its lateral hires. Along with a large number of attorneys who started their practice at other Des Moines area law firms, we have added attorneys who practiced with prominent law firms in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Phoenix. We have also had success recruiting individuals upon completion of a judicial clerkship. Our attorneys include former clerks to seven different United States Courts of Appeals and the Iowa Supreme Court.
Compensation and Benefits
Because we consider our most direct competition for recent law graduates to come from firms located in larger cities outside of Iowa, the firm is committed to paying our young attorneys and summer associates salaries and benefits that are competitive with those found in larger firms in Minneapolis, Kansas City and St. Louis. While our attorneys also enjoy a substantial cost of living benefit from living and working in the Des Moines metropolitan area, we believe that our associates should not be compensated differently from their peers in those larger markets. At present, the salary for first-year associates is $140,000.
As part of the firm's benefits package, we offer free underground parking, full medical/dental/vision insurance, 401(k) with an employer contribution, reimbursement for bar exam and bar review course expenses, reimbursement for continuing legal education courses, the option to work part-time, vacation time, dependent care flexible spending accounts and health care flexible spending accounts.
The Application Process
Because of our selectivity and relatively small size, the firm does not participate in on-campus recruiting with any law schools at the present time. We are always looking to add quality lawyers to our team, however. We encourage law students interested in our summer program and practicing attorneys exploring lateral opportunities to apply by sending a resume, cover letter, law school transcript and writing sample to our hiring attorney. Our hiring attorney is:
Kelsey J. Knowles
666 Walnut St
Des Moines, IA 50309