True, career progression may be one of law-department management’s intractables (See my post of June 24, 2007.). Even so, there are some steps that general counsel can take to improve this prickly subject.
1. Publish a chart that shows for each level of progression roughly what the general counsel expects lawyers to demonstrate if they are to be promoted (See my posts of March 6, 2006 on dual-track systems; March 28, 2006 on reasons to go in-house; and Dec. 28, 2006 on few promotions.).
2. Conduct meaningful evaluations of lawyers during which you tell them where they stand and what they need to do to move forward (See my post of July 29, 2007 on human capital management and references cited.).
3. Carry on some kind of program that identifies and treats specially your high-potential lawyers (See my post of July 29, 2007 on HiPo programs and references cited.).
4. Make available coaching and other forms of career development support (See my post of July 9, 2007 on coaching and references cited.).
5. Explain the compensation system as transparently as possible so that lawyers have an accurate sense of where they stand regarding pay (See my post of July 14, 2005 about equitable and transparent pay schemes.).
6. Weed out poor performers and promote strong performers (See my posts of May 4, 2005 on forced ranking of employees; Nov. 14, 2005 on arguments for it; and Dec. 1, 2006 #3 for research findings; as well as of Oct. 12, 2006 on low turnover rates in-house; and Dec. 28, 2006 about promotions and career paths.).
7. Create development opportunities for lawyers (See my posts of April 18, 2005 on transfers out of the law department; Aug. 4, 2007 on job rotations; and Nov. 8, 2007 for on-the-spot rewards.).
8. Reduce competition that degenerates into dysfunctional relations (See my post of June 5, 2007 on office politics.).
9. Centralize management of the legal function, so that the larger department can provide more career choices than can the smaller, silo departments (See my post of July 25, 2007.).