A highly-competent, high-performing lawyer can make a huge difference to a law department and indeed to a company (See my posts of Aug. 16, 2006 on super-lawyers; and March 16, 2006 on A-players.).
Many law departments try to identify very strong performers early and nurture them (See my posts of March 31, 2007 and three references cited; May 20, 2005 on the risks with a star; and May 7, 2006 on GE’s treatment of high-achieving lawyers.). In fact, succession programs are a muted and more comprehensive version of high-potential programs (See my posts of July 31, 2005 about succession planning; Jan. 4, 2006 on hallmarks of a robust performance management system; May 1, 2005 on sabbaticals and succession; Oct. 10, 2005 on internal competition.).
Special efforts in favor of a few are not without their problems (See my post of June 24, 2007on the pitfalls of high-potential programs.). The philosophical question has to do with the rightness of generally trying to raise all boats or investing in one or two to make them yachts.