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The in-house career conundrum, but some finer points about paths

For most in-house counsel, how the general counsel can clear a career path for them is a conundrum. According to Cheryl Solomon, general counsel of the Gucci Group, if a lawyer has primary responsibility for a major business unit it can be easier to get promoted to the next level of compensation banding, gain more perquisites, and even a higher title — assuming the business grows. Solomon called that “organic growth potential” (See my post of Dec. 9, 2008: single points of contact with 6 references.).

Career paths are harder, however, for specialty lawyers, such as litigation heads or directors of compliance, who may get great experience but there is nothing similar to organic growth that allows them to advance meaningfully, unless the overall organization grows sufficiently to warrant a larger legal team. So, according to Solomon, “You need to help them find continued ways to grow and develop” (See my post of May 5, 2008: specialty lawyers with 30 references.).

Solomon also acknowledged the tension of a general counsel between liking her people but wanting them to find their full potential. It is a fact of life that if you’ve hired the right people, eventually some will get bored, feel stunted, and leave, unless you can find meaningful ways to allow them to develop professionally (See my post of March 8, 2009: attrition in law departments, with 16 references and one metapost.).

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