Coaching CirclesIn a recent article in Practice Innovations Newsletter, Jane DiRenzo Pigott, Managing Director of R3 Group LLC in Chicago, highlights a problem faced increasingly by law firms: how to retain associates with promise and potential who are likely to be courted by other firms. She proposes the “coaching circle” as a strategy to help firms avoid the loss of their valuable young lawyers.

The Problem

Pigott points out that the market for talent and expertise at the associate level is robust partly due to wide-spread entry-level hiring reductions in recent years. In addition, according to a 2015 survey of mid-level associates by American Lawyer, there is “a strong attrition rate within this group when their expectations are not being met.” She attributes this phenomenon at least in part to the increasing numbers of millennials who are now joining the ranks of law-firm associates. “Millennials value transparency in expectations and effective hands-on mentoring,” she says. (On this subject, see also the recent article in Amazing Firms, Amazing PracticesAddressing the Generational Divide.”)

A Solution

To fulfil the expectations of millennials in particular, law firms need to become much more involved in coaching and mentoring than most are today, Pigott says. Since, for a host of reasons, most partners are not willing or able to become effective coaches, she recommends that firms consider establishing “coaching circles,” in which a coaching expert from outside the firm works with small groups of associates within the firm. She sets out guidelines for such circles that are intended to help them fulfil their potential usefulness to both the firm and the associates.

What do you think? Should firms seek outside assistance in their efforts to retain associates, or does this kind of mentoring and coaching need to come from within the firm itself? I am always happy to know your thoughts on this – or any other – matter, either in the comments below or directly via email.