Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Two-Year “Chapterships” Open Doors for New Hires

handshakeCould the idea of “chaptership” employment make its way into the law?

The concept, which hires new workers for fixed, two-year terms - or “chapters” – is taking hold at tech startups in Silicon Valley.

The idea is to give young workers a place to sharpen their skills and learn the ropes without having to make a long-term-commitment. The company gets two years of work from a fresh, motivated employee, generally at a reduced salary. At the end of two years, the employee either accepts a new chapter with the company or moves on to the next chapter in their work journey.

Chapterships arose in part as a response to high turnover rates in the tech industry. Companies knew a large percentage of new employees would be leaving soon anyway. Why not make it clear from the start that the gig was short-term?

Unlike workers in past generations, many millennials are not looking for lifetime careers. They are seeking the next challenging chapter in their work lives.

“Nobody should be [here] if they don’t want to be,” says CEO and chaptership proponent Roie Deutsch in this article. “The name comes from the idea of helping you better prepare for your next chapter.”

Deutsch believes so strongly in the chaptership model he has even written a free book about it.

Chaptership vs. Internship

If you’re thinking chapterships sound like little more than extended internships, you would be right. But you’d also be wrong.

Unlike interns, workers in chapterships are encouraged to come up with their own job descriptions and design their own projects. At Deutsch’s startup (Jolt, which facilitates videoconferences between experts in Silicon Valley and companies around the world), workers are even assigned a Success Manager to guide their professional development.

As an example, Deutsch points to an engineer who dreamed of one day running his own company but was lacking in confidence. To help him, Jolt paid for acting classes, and then sent him on his way when his chapter had ended.

“It doesn’t mean I’m firing you,” Deutsch says of the closing of a chapter. “It means, ‘Let’s find something new for you to do.’”

The defining characteristic of chapterships is that at the end of two years, the job ends, no matter what. If the pairing was a good fit and both sides are agreeable, the worker is invited to stay on for a new chapter, which could mean completely new responsibilities. Otherwise, it’s sayonara.

“It’s sort of similar to Google’s famed ATAP secret labs, where researchers are given two-year employment contracts and shown the door at the end, which is meant to encourage fast innovation and prevent employees from staying on their laurels,” according to Business Insider.

Deutsch says the chaptership model is a better deal for employees than the ping-pong tables, free sodas and other perks offered at other stratups, which he says are intended to distract them from the fact that “they’re stuck in a job that doesn’t help them improve.”

As for the two-year expiration date? “People leave anyway,” he says.

What do you say? Could a chaptership model work in the law office?


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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