According to this National Law Journal article, mid-sized firms are hiring professional development directors to provide training and support to attorneys. Excerpt:
"We don't want to just pay them a lot of money," he said.
Although most of the megafirms in recent years have invested in hiring associate-development teams to help coordinate programs and address work-life issues, development director positions are new for many midsize regional firms. Law firm leaders and career professionals say that the jobs are becoming increasingly important as business for most law firms of all sizes remains strong and the pool of law school graduates stays stagnant.
Attrition problems, though on a smaller scale than those at giant firms, have prompted midsize law firms to hire development directors. But these firms also are bringing in career professionals because of another pressure from the market.
"Midsized firms don't want to lose associates who want the training they feel like they'd be getting" at bigger firms, said Marina Sirras, president of Marina Sirras & Associates, a legal recruiter in New York. One of the factors associates use to gauge the strength of a firm is whether it has someone dedicated to helping them climb the ladder to partner."
The article concludes with the aspirations of a major southwest law firm:
"Phoenix-based Lewis and Roca is seeking its first professional-development director. The person whom the 200-attorney firm hires will work mainly with associates and nonequity partners, said managing partner Kenneth Van Winkle.
The decision to create the job was part of the firm's move two years ago to convert to a two-tier partnership structure, which included nonequity partners. The agreement among firm leaders to reconfigure the partnership structure included some "horse trading," Van Winkle said, in which he made the commitment that the firm would hire a development director to assist associates and nonequity partners in becoming full partners.
Lewis and Roca had in place a development strategy, he said, but without someone to handle it full time, it was not getting implemented. Partners would volunteer to do the job, but they would set aside the tasks in favor of client business.
"It's all sitting there waiting," he said. "We've provided the bones; we want someone who can put meat on the bones."
Whoever fills the job will be busy. Responsibilities include handling matters of mentoring, retention, training, career planning and counseling, succession planning, diversity initiatives and many more. The person will answer to Van Winkle, which he said is critical to the credibility and accountability of the position. "
Can retention initiatives such as these succeed without strong leadership at the top AND at the practice group/regional office level? What do you think? Read the article here.