While discussions around the future of the legal profession often focus on technology, investment in people is just as important, according to an article written for Thomson Reuters by former lawyer Libby Hakim, Future-Proofing Your In-House Legal Team.
“In-house legal teams differ from law firms in that they often have more responsibilities and work with the entire organisation,” Ms Hakim said.
“It’s therefore crucial for in-house solicitors to be highly responsive to business needs as they occur and ensure operational continuity in the absence of team members.”
Succession planning is a pressing need for corporate counsel, with the workforce undergoing a fundamental shift. According to a recent Thomson Reuters study in the US, The Generational Shift in Legal Departments, millennials will form up to 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025.
But succession planning goes hand in hand with mentoring, Ms Hakim said. Mentoring is vital in developing the best possible talent pipeline to take a legal team forward, especially since millennials have a reputation for job-hopping.
“Mentoring is a powerful way of nurturing loyalty among millennials and can help you retain the best talent, avoid the costs of high turnover, and avoid the problem of ongoing brain drain and organisational churn,” Ms Hakim said.
The process of succession planning and mentoring is also an important business health check.
“Another important benefit of succession planning is that identifying future leaders not only reveals strengths in the workforce, but also weaknesses that need to be addressed to secure business and financial growth,” Ms Hakim said.
She listed the following considerations for any general counsel looking to develop a succession plan:
“You don’t need to finalise the plan straight away. Indeed, a succession plan should be a work in progress that gets updated from time to time.”
Consider continuity in the short term…
“If you were unable to work from tomorrow, is there anyone within the team who could step into your role?”
… and the long term
“If you were to progress in your career or move to a different company, what information would you need to pass on to ensure a smooth transition period for your replacement and your team?
Identify your successor
“Is there anyone you already think is capable of taking over? Assess the suitability of your internal candidates by allowing them the opportunity to act in your role or other more senior roles.”
Look at recruitment
“If no internal candidates are suitable, what are the best options and strategies for onboarding an external person?”