It seems inevitable that when a lawyer is promoted to be a direct report of the general counsel or to be the general counsel, disappointment – sometimes bitter discontent – plagues those who believed they had a shot at it but were passed over (See my post of April 16, 2007: loss of talent when a general counsel is promoted.).
A study should look at former peers of the promoted lawyer and count their departures within two years of the promotion. Such a study could quantify the likely range of loss to include the cost of morale, lower productivity, and replacement (See my post of March 8, 2009: attrition in law departments, with 16 references and one metapost.).
No palliatives can completely comfort someone wounded by not being promoted but when the full consequences are better understood and the economic loss made manifest, a well-run legal department might take steps to ease the pain and reduce the loss (See my post of May 24, 2010: shared position holders as a possible solution.).