Another law firms, Howrey, announced this week that they too will begin an apprentice program for their 1st and 2nd year associates.

Starting this fall, Howrey will begin selling recruits on a new program at the firm in which associates will spend their first two years serving as “apprentices” before taking on significant client work.

As part of the two-year program, associates will spend the majority of their time at the litigation-heavy firm attending training seminars where they will learn the practical skills of lawyering, said managing partner Robert Ruyak in an interview.

During their first year at the firm, associates will take classes on legal writing and research and will work on pro bono projects to give them hands-on experience without charging clients. In the second year of the program, associates will be embedded at client sites for several months at a reduced billing rate of between $150 and $200 an hour. They will also continue to take classes on litigation skills such as trial tactics, cross examination, and mediation and arbitration.

Howrey started working on the program about two years ago when the firm decided it was going to move away from lockstep compensation for its associates. (In January, the firm did away with its lockstep model for associates, instead paying them based on measured levels of competency.)

I, for one, am happy to see this trend towards an apprenticeship/internship for recent law school graduates continue.

Pollyanna warning: In anything bad, good can rise. Firms can either embrace the opportunity to change, or not. Today’s economic reality, the mass lay offs, and law firm dissolutions provide the kindling for good change to occur. What law firms do with these opportunities is yet to be seen.