Law firms are more likely to correctly identify the future leaders of the firm when they initiate a training process early in a lawyer’s career. Focusing on attorney development from the start also gives law firms a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining the most talented lawyers and in being better prepared for the future.
The goals of an attorney development system include:
- Identify and encourage model lawyers;
- Nurture those best suited to serve client needs;
- Enable lawyers to reach their full potential; and
- Identify early in the process those who would perform better in another role.
To achieve these goals, we recommend a systematic approach. Specifically, developing the best lawyers requires law firms to incorporate several policies, systems, and guidelines that include:
- Hiring criteria;
- Model associate guidelines;
- Evaluation process;
- Practice planning process;
- Client and senior lawyer staffing alignment;
- Compensation and Incentives for
- Billable contributions;
- Supervision and training; and
- Targeted recruiting;
- Origination and origination sharing policies; and
- A transition compensation structure.
- Client service fundamentals;
- Personal development;
- Marketing competence;
- Training and mentoring contributions;
- Professional profile and peer recognition;
- Skill development;
- Delegation and supervision;
- Recruiting; and
- Basic law firm economics.
A strategic approach to staffing (aligning client work with training needs or developmental opportunities) although challenging, can materially speed up attorney development. Client collaboration is necessary, and creating economic incentives (cost savings) for using junior staffing can make strategic staffing possible.
A quality attorney development system that includes these essential elements, systems, and processes enhances a firm’s ability to operate more profitably and helps eager and prepared lawyers for future leadership and management positions.