Antoine Henry de Frahan, writing recently on his blawg, Legal Management, discusses why general counsel should accept that some of their most talented lawyers will leave.
“In a profession where people are used to the “up or out” philosophy, when there is no way up, the only option is to move out. Hire high potentials, put them in an exciting position, but sooner than later they will come with the question: What’s next?“
Most law departments are fairly stable, with little attrition or growth opportunities, and lawyers in the top spots may not be due to retire for years. A general counsel in such a stasis department has to get used to periodically losing his “best and brightest”. Frahan finds some good in these losses:
”- Lawyers who leave the legal department to become business managers will most probably keep good ties with legal. They will become “good clients”;
– The legal department may earn a solid reputation as an incubator for high-potential individuals who then take managerial positions in the company. That may be a very powerful argument to attract candidates in the legal department, who know that after a few years, they may have the opportunity to pursue their career in a business function if they so wish.
– Lawyers on their way out also make room available. Especially if they are holding a senior position, their departure constitutes an opportunity for other, younger, ambitious lawyers in the department to move up… and stay longer in the legal department.”