Does your firm offer in-house career counseling?

Recently I wrote about lawyer development, urging firms to invest as much in the success of their existing attorneys as they do in hooking new hires. Here's one way: some firms are retaining in-house career counselors for associates. Niraj Chokshi reports that a few firms are staffing these formal, permanent positions.

The position, say firm development managers, offers associates a neutral and confidential third party to go to with questions: How do I stay on track to make partner? How do I better build my practice? How can I switch practices? How do I get out of here?

There are a couple of business reasons for in-house career counseling...

[More after the jump]

The first business reason for in-house career counseling is that retaining attorneys saves money. An oft-cited statistic is that every 2nd year associate lost costs a firm $200-$500K. A second business reason is that it is to a firm's business advantage to stay friendly with current--and former--attorneys.

If an associate leaves a firm on good terms--and, in fact, received help from the firm to do so--it can foster future business from the associate, said Matthew Feuer, a consultant at McClure & Feuer in San Francisco.

"I think it's a fascinating idea, in part because law firms today... have been trying to cement relationships with companies, and what better way to cement that relationship than with somebody who has worked with your firm?" he said.

Formally committing resources to lawyer development is good for firms. It's also good for female attorneys, since the informality of old boys' networks is part of what makes it so hard to break into them. I applaud three firms that have created in-house career counseling positions already: Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Does your firm offer anything similar?

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