Remarks on a recent panel by Robert Weber, the General Counsel of IBM, are available on Law.com. In the past, the company mostly hired lawyers with four to eight years of law firm experience. Now IBM increasingly hires straight out of law school.
The decision to hire students from law school came three years ago, according to the summary of Weber’s remarks. “There was nothing wrong with the candidates they were hiring after five, six, or seven years at law firms. But the skills they’d learned as associates didn’t match up very well with their responsibilities at IBM.” The fit wasn’t good. “The company still had to train them for six months before they were really ready to contribute. The freshly minted lawyers they hire now require the same amount of training, but their starting salaries are much lower. And they’re getting IBM training from day one.”
Weber also spoke about turnover. “Retention is a big concern of many large law departments. IBM has had pretty good luck there, too. With more than 500 in-house lawyers, Big Blue loses very few it wishes it didn’t.”
One reason is that IBM gives its lawyers a chance to see the world. Fifty percent are working abroad. Examples of recent moves: New York to Brazil; London to Shanghai, Australia to Singapore; Vienna to Dubai. “Businesses invest where they’re growing,” he adds, so that’s where the lawyers are heading.”