The challenges of change in managing lawyer careers

The challenges of change in managing lawyer careers

Our firm is currently advising several law firms about improvements to their career management policies and procedures. In some legal markets this has become a very important strategic issue - not just one of internal human resources management. In order to make the improvements that are necessary to remain competitive in the market for legal talent, some law firms are discovering that a modern approach to lawyer career management might require some significant changes.

My partner, Lisa Walker Johnson, points out five important - and sometimes very difficult - questions that law firm partners should ask when considering changes to their career management policies.  They concern whether the firm is really ready to change:

  • Are your partners ready and committed to hold each other accountable for how each of you manages the associates whom you supervise?
  • Are you ready and willing to share career management information with your associates and to trust to keep internal documents strictly confidential (and to take decisive disciplinary action against those who do not)?
  • Are you ready and willing to make significant investments in training and development of your associates, particularly with respect to business and management skills?
  • Are you ready and willing to collaborate with your associates in some areas of your firm's career planning; so that they develop a sense of ownership of the firm's policies and a greater sense of individual responsibility for their own advancement?
  • Are you ready and willing to invest in your associates, even though there is a risk that some of them might leave the firm before they become partners - or even after?

Unless you are willing to manage the risks inherent in this type of change within your firm, all of the career management plans and manuals in the world probably will not deliver the results that you need.

So, before asking what changes you need to your lawyer career management plan in the future, invest some time in an honest discussion about what changes you are willing to make now in the ways in which your partners have related to, guided, and managed your associates in the past.

For more information about how Walker Clark can help you and your partners manage the challenge of change in managing lawyer careers, click here.

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