The general counsel I interview can always rank their direct reports in terms of their ability to take on the general counsel’s position. Some they recognize as very strong candidates (“X is my likely heir apparent.”) while others are pegged as workmanlike lawyers who will never make the jump. Most general counsel have some sense that they should assign broader responsibilities to their leading lights and to let them know, in some fashion, that they are contenders. In fact, succession management is a muted version of high-potential programs.
But only in the largest companies, with demanding HR practices, must general counsel formally state succession candidates for their own position, let alone the positions just below (See my post of May 1, 2005: who will succeed a lawyer; July 31, 2005: succession planning; Oct. 10, 2005: politics and succession planning; Jan. 4, 2006: hallmark of a robust performance management system; June 5, 2006: general counsel succession planning; and Oct. 19, 2008: deleterious effect of turnover.). In well-run companies, it is incumbent on a manager to rank succession candidates and explain what those candidates need to do be promoted.