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Strategies for the transfer of knowledge by in-house attorneys who retire

For inside counsel, nothing is certain but death, taxes and retirement – and general counsel certainly know that many of their lawyers will retire from the department some day (See my post of Dec. 19, 2005: “contented” attorneys in-house face the specter of retirement; Sept. 4, 2005: demographic forces; and April 9, 2006: hairline of law departments receding.).

What general counsel do to preserve the experience and knowledge of those who take the gold watch is usually woeful (See my post of March 16, 2006: little preservation of knowledge possessed by those soon to retire; June 12, 2005: how to minimize losses from retirements; and Feb. 25, 2007: knowledge preservation through video recordings.). Especially with subject matter experts, the brain drain can be very disruptive (See my post of Oct. 22, 2008: SMEs with 7 references.).

A sidebar in talent mgt., April 2009 at 40, mentions a few maneuvers that may stem losses of knowledge from retirements. Procter & Gamble allows certain retirees to work on temporary assignments (See my post of Oct. 8, 2007: IBM’s extensive use of retired patent counsel; and Sept. 17, 2005: retired general counsel retained as legal consultants.). Other companies used phased retirements that allow employees to scale down their hours rather than retire completely. For other companies, pre-retirement apprenticeships help pass on learning. Monsanto pairs highly-valued employees with successors; other companies pass on knowledge through action learning “in which people work on a real or simulated problem, and the expert acts as a resource and critiques the outcomes.”