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Corporate Counsel shares a newsroom with The American Lawyer. If you walk around our floor, you notice the layouts for recent TAL (as we call it in-house) stories on the walls and boxes of the newest issues on the floor. One perennial topic TAL covers is associate satisfaction at the country’s 200 largest-grossing law firms, The Am Law 200. It won’t surprise you to hear that there’s an increasing failure to communicate: Overall, the midlevel associates in TAL’s 2005 survey say that their firms do only an average job when it comes to speaking with them about client matters, firm financials, the path to partnership, etc. Associates complain that firms don’t care about them and their future; partners ask why invest time and energy in someone who is going to leave? What does this have to do with all of you? Well, most of you worked as an associate once (yes, I know, back when BlackBerries were as commonplace as dinosaurs), so you can relate. More importantly, you’ve got the leverage to improve communication at the firms. To be sure, in-house counsel are notoriously bad at evaluating their outside counsel. According to a 2005 Altman Weil survey of the Fortune 500, only 18 percent of company lawyers have formal programs to measure their firms’ performance. But informal feedback is cheap and efficient. And it should include reminding partners about the strengths and weaknesses of the associates who work on your most important matters. Follow up in more depth about the ones who are the most promising. Is that lawyer on the partnership track? Does she know that? Has she been told what she needs to do in the next few years to better her odds? Sure, involving yourself in firm politics is messy and awkward. But it makes good business sense. Firms want to keep clients happy. Clients want productive, motivated lawyers working on their matters. Associate morale, I’m afraid, is your problem, too. One other note: In April 2005 we published our “Shortlist,” profiles of ten deputy or associate general counsel with the potential to become GC within the next five years. Well, we didn’t have to wait that long for two of the people on our list. In late 2005, Tyco’s Cornell Boggs was named to the chief legal officer job at Coors Brewing Company, and IBM promoted Donald Rosenberg to its GC spot. Congratulations. We’re very proud.

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