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Associate Development

Sheppard Mullin looks for new associates who have the integrity, drive and intellect to become outstanding practicing lawyers.

We acknowledge that associates’ career paths diverge over time. We make a major effort to provide our associates with resources with which to build and channel their careers. We have extensive training programs. We staff all legal matters leanly, which gives associates a substantial amount of responsibility, and client contact at an early stage. Associates also gain experience in firm administration by serving on committees such as the Associates' Forum and the Pro Bono, Diversity and Inclusion, Recruiting, and Summer Associate Committees.

Orientation & Mentoring

Incoming associates receive a local office orientation covering basics such as firm policies, benefits, library resources and information services. New associates from all offices gather for a New Associates Orientation Weekend which includes presentations by the firm’s Chief Talent Officer, Chief Financial Officer, General Counsel, Manager of Diversity and Inclusion and a panel of mid-level and senior associates. The topics covered include the current financial state of the firm, law firm economics, legal ethics, the firm's diversity program and tips for success as an associate. A panel of associates discusses time management, the work assignment process and approaches to the practice of law.

Associate Training

We provide a systematic program of professional education, designed to provide knowledge of substantive law and practical suggestions as to day-to-day legal practice. During 2016, 208 legal education programs were presented to attorneys within our firm.  Sheppard Mullin has firm-wide subscriptions to Practicing Law Institute and California Continuing Education of the Bar, allowing 24/7 access to all of their course offerings.  Attendance at PLI programs rose to 1665 in 2016. The firm also presents programs on marketing and client development.

We also offer video courses that help associates learn to become effective business developers. These programs offer guidance on the steps that associates can take early in their careers to get a head start on the process. Items that are covered in our business development programs include:

  • Technology for building a networkof potential clients
  • How to increase your visibility as a lawyer
  • How to research a client or potential client before meeting them
  • Communication skills, including active listening

Judicial Clerkships

Sheppard Mullin welcomes service by associates, immediately following law school graduation and bar examination and before commencement of legal practice with the firm, in clerkships with United States District Courts, United States Circuit Courts of Appeal and state supreme courts. The firm will not offer post-graduate employment to a student who has accepted a clerkship with a term that begins after the student is scheduled to start his or her practice at Sheppard Mullin.


As part of our professional development program, every associate is assigned to a Partner Advisor from his or her Practice Group. The Partner Advisor conducts the associate's performance evaluations (twice during the associate’s first year and annually thereafter) and works with the associate to develop an annual individual business / professional development plan.

Partnership College

For associates in the sixth year or above, Sheppard Mullin holds a biannual "Partnership College". The goal of Partnership College is to teach associates what it takes to become a partner in the firm, and to provide them with a basic toolkit upon which they can build during their senior associate years. Topics covered at Partnership College include the history and evolution of the partnership, overviews of partnership selection and compensation, law firm economics and panel discussions by young partners of their paths to partnership and how life in the firm differs when one is a partner.

Associates' Forum

Sheppard Mullin’s Associates' Forum fosters open communication between associates and partners. The Forum consists of almost 40 associate representatives. It meets quarterly with the firm's Chief Human Resources Officer and the Chief Talent Officer.

Topics covered at Associates' Forum meetings have included performance evaluations, compensation, benefits, partnership selection criteria, work/life balance issues and office-specific issues. Significantly, the firm has implemented a number of changes in policies and procedures as a result of input received through the Associates' Forum.


The firm keeps its associates and staff informed of the financial condition of the firm and business developments affecting firm through annual "State of the Firm" meetings. The Chair of the firm’s Executive Committee and the firm’s Chief Operating Officer visit all U.S. offices to make these presentations in person and to answer questions from attendees.

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