Many firms no longer let young associates bill their hours to clients at high rates. Instead, they're treated as apprentices.
This provocative article by Michael Orey is from Business Week.
Drinker Biddle & Reath, which has 12 offices in the U.S., announced in May that, instead of deferring start dates for new attorneys, as many firms have done because of the recession, it will put new grads in a six-month apprenticeship—at reduced pay and billing rates.
This can only highlight the value of having good research and writing skills, and experience in the practice of law.