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Ever since the founding of our firm, we've sought out lawyers who believe, as we do, that the client experience should be professional, humane and pleasant.  Right from the start we orient new associates to the professional and personal conduct that we expect from them and provide training and mentoring to make sure they understand how we practice law and how we want them to meet client expectations. 

We establish billable goals, not strict requirements for how many hours must be billed.  We evaluate lawyers not simply on how much they bill, but on how well they work.  Through training and development programs, mentor relationships, appropriate supervision and substantial feedback, we help new associates quickly become efficient, contributing members of our firm as successful lawyers.

Hiring Criteria

We select associates who demonstrate superior client service capabilities, who have the highest character and academic credentials, and who exhibit the ability to succeed professionally and personally. We believe that one indicator of success is a superior law school record (including law review, moot court or other similar experiences) or service as a judicial clerk.

Orientation

Although most of our associates have spent time with us as summer clerks and understand what makes Gordon Arata unique, we find that a brief orientation when beginning work helps in their transition. The orientation introduces the new associate to the firm and describes our practice guidelines, professional and personal conduct expectations, membership criteria, involvement in professional activities, compensation and benefits, office services and office operating policies.

Training and Development

Our associate training program includes regularly scheduled lunches and in-firm seminars throughout the year. These events give associates the chance to learn about the firm, to discuss questions or areas of concern directly with members and to raise substantive and administrative topics.  Past meetings have covered: Timekeeping and Billing Procedures; Legal Opinions; Client Contacts; Legal Writing; Litigation Techniques; Negotiation Techniques; Arbitration and Mediation; Formation of Business Entities; and Ethical Issues. In addition, we encourage all associates, but particularly first-years, to observe depositions, hearings, motions, trials, closings, negotiations and client conferences.

Associate Mentors

Each associate is assigned a member mentor, who meets regularly with him or her to help foster professional development and to ensure understanding of office procedures.  Mentors help monitor work load to avoid over- or under-utilization, resolve conflicts when there are too many competing demands on an associate’s time and address any problems or concerns.  Mentors also keep track of how associates are developing their practice and integrating into the firm.

Evaluations

The head of each practice section and the managing member conduct associate evaluations. They give each associate a clear and candid performance appraisal as individuals and in comparison to peers.  Evaluations are conducted annually after all members and senior associates give their input and include:

· A review of the past year's performance in terms of specific criteria

· A discussion of strengths and weaknesses to give the associate insight to the membership's expectations regarding development in the coming year

· An overview of the associate's goals for the coming year, particularly in light of membership expectations

In addition to the formal evaluation process, we encourage all associates to ask for and all lawyers to give immediate feedback on the work associates perform.


Frequently Asked Questions on Other Issues

Q. How is work assigned to associates?
A. There is no formal work assignment procedure. Members and senior associates give work directly to available associates. Associates also have the flexibility to seek out the type of assignments that interest them.

Q. Are there any minimum billable requirements?
A. Gordon Arata has established a goal of 1800 billable hours per year for its associates, but does not have a strict billable requirement. Naturally, productivity is a component of how associates are evaluated, but that includes both quality of work and billable hours.

Q. How is associate compensation determined?
A. Associate salary is lock-step, but bonuses may vary based on performance. Our associate compensation package is reviewed annually, and we are committed to being competitive with other New Orleans firms.

Q. What is the membership track?
A. It is typically six to eight years, and there are no multiple membership tiers.

Q. Does the firm encourage associates to engage in business development?
A. Yes. We believe that business development is important, and we encourage associates both to pursue clients on their own and to work with members. We do not, however, expect associates to develop significant new business.

Q. Are associates assigned to work for specific members?
A. Generally not. Associates usually work with all of the members and senior associates in their practice section, as well as in other sections as necessary. In special circumstances, an associate may be assigned to particular members for particular projects.

Q. How much responsibility do associates have for client matters?
A. Associates are encouraged to assume as much responsibility and client contact as they can comfortably and confidently take on.

Q. What legal assistant support is available?
A. Each lawyer is assigned a legal assistant. Most associates share a legal assistant with a member or senior associate.

Q. Does the firm have a pro bono program?
A. Gordon Arata encourages its lawyers to be active in the communities in which we practice and to devote as much time as they feel comfortable with to pro bono and community service matters.

Q. Who are the hiring contacts?
A.  The members on our Recruiting Committee are Nina Wessel English (Chairperson), Julie Deshotels Jardell, Rick Shelby, and Kelly Perrier. Please contact Elaine Seaward with any questions regarding our summer program.

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