“Our people are our most important asset.” Outside of perhaps patent trolls, it's hard to find a business anywhere that doesn't make this claim. It's no doubt true at some level for most businesses. However, for law firms (as well as in-house legal departments), our people are really, in many ways, our sole asset. Too often, we lose sight of this fact or simply give it lip service. For law firms to truly make the changes necessary to better serve their clients over the long term, we must refocus the professional development of our people toward the creation of leaders with diverse skill sets, rather than as fungible FTEs to be levered.
All law firms are in the game for the long term. Long term, the interests of the firm are most closely aligned with the talented, hardworking young lawyers. The senior partners have built the firm. They appropriately often receive the highest compensation. They are trusted advisors of the firm's best clients. However, it is very difficult for them to think about where the firm will be in 2025 in anything more than a superficial way. It is the talented, hardworking associates and junior partners that should be thinking and strategizing regarding the future of the firm. Too often, factors such as ever-tightening partner admission standards (a reality) and evolving generational differences drive a wedge between law firms and their most valuable assets. Law firms (and their clients) should take care to recognize that regardless of structure or the particulars of the present law firm-client relationship, they both benefit from the development of young talent into lawyers who can help businesses solve problems.