Traditional Law Firm Professional Development Models Obsolete?
Most firm’s lawyer staffing model is not far removed from what might be called “traditional” or “old fashioned.” That means that they still hire most new lawyers immediately upon their graduation from law school, or judicial clerkships – and assume that when they join, they are not ready to practice law. We lawyers assume our new lawyers will learn by working with experienced lawyers (what the consultants call the “apprenticeship” model).
Depending on many variables, we assume that it takes four to seven years before most new lawyers become “stand-alone” professionals. We assume that in time our associates will become our partners and spend their careers as members of our firm. This model helps us to deliver a standard of client service that, we hope, sets us apart.
Are we obsolete? In a changing world, we hold to the conviction that our way remains the best: the best professional development model for lawyers who will become counsellors and advocates for clients facing the most difficult problems.
The greatest challenge to our model has come from high turnover among associates, which we attribute to demographics. Turnover among young lawyers at law firms generally is high, as apparently turnover is high for Millenials generally.
We believe that turnover at Brooks Pierce is lower than among our peers, but – at our size and in our practice niches – turnover (or, retention) is still a challenge, and it is expensive. We cannot ignore it.
Whaddaya gonna do?
We manage. Specifics (our not-so secrets) will come in posts to follow this one.
We believe that we have have continued to make the economics of the old model succeed, even in a time of high associate salaries – and on terms that are fair to our clients, yet work for us. That part is a story for another day.