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The Best Law Firms Develop their Senior Talent

Law firms are finally catching onto the fact that to retain their best senior lawyers – they must continue to develop their non-technical skills.

The best lawyers are (or should be…) curious and hungry to learn and develop non-technical skills. Law is not all about precedents, snails in ginger beer, and legislation!

Here’s what the best firms are doing to develop their mid to senior level lawyers:

Developing their Business development/networking skills.

We’re not talking about turning your seniors into the Wolf of Shortland Street or the Leopard of Lambton Quay but BD is increasingly important in the highly competitive legal sector.

Savvy law firms actually help their seniors to develop, implement, and regularly check in with a detailed BD plan.  This includes connecting their lawyers with other advisers, Senior executives, accountants, bankers, and interest groups.

Lawyers at all levels are generally pretty average at proactively expanding or sharing their networks outside of the law or their existing client base. Yet many firms expect their seniors to build their own fee base…  

Even firms with dedicated BD teams don’t spend nearly enough time with mid-senior level lawyers on how to successfully build networks outside of other lawyers.  Help them!

Developing their coaching and management capability.  

It’s no secret that a supervising Senior Associate can literally make or break a team.  Mid to seniors have the daily pressure of hitting billable targets whilst also managing junior staff. Top performing firms actively assist them to get the best out of their team members and genuinely enjoy being part of more junior staff development.

Firms seem to expect that being a good technical lawyer means you’ll also be a good manager/supervisor of juniors.  This is a big mistake – you must help your people to develop these skills.

You need to coach and develop your more senior staff on how to successfully coach and develop their juniors.  These skills don’t come naturally to many lawyers and take time to embed in their daily operating rhythm. That said, coaching more junior staff and seeing the dramatic improvements can be a hugely rewarding part of any lawyer’s career path. Here’s a hint – people constantly talk about who’s great to work for (and even more so who’s terrible to work for.) 

Remember:  Modern lawyers are looking to develop their skills well beyond the technical side of practice.  Help retain your best and most promising mid to senior level lawyers with a wider development and learning programme.  If you don’t, another firm will!

If your firm needs to discuss recruiting for exceptional legal talent or how to retain the best people you currently have – drop me a line or give me a call. I specialise in partnering with the best firms in town and act for many of NZ’s best lawyers who are looking for the next step in their career.

Email me at or call +64 27 27 700 2999.

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