Issue No 4. October 2003

Dear Colleague:


  1. Upcoming Conferences
    • 4th Annual Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference
    • 2003 Professional Development Institute
  2. Associate Retention: An Ongoing Problem
  3. Being "Green": How one firm's sustainability initiative is protecting the environment, saving money, developing new business, and enhancing firm morale
  4. Management Tip: Welcoming New Lawyers into the Firm

Some firms and companies mistakenly believe that they need to focus on morale and retention only in a hot job market when the risk of losing talented people is high. Smart firms, however, address these issues all the time. They constantly try to create a work environment that allows people to grow and develop, and that makes them feel valued as individuals, engaged in their work, and committed to the organization. These firms are more likely to keep people when the market turns around and enticing new job opportunities appear.

This issue of Management Solutions presents some strategies for retention and describes how two law firms promote a feeling of inclusion and community that keeps morale high among lawyers and employees. The contents of this issue include:

Two important upcoming conferences: I will be participating in two conferences this fall that may be of interest to you. The 2003 Pathways to Diversity Conference will feature the findings of a study I recently completed on diversity in mentoring relationships. The 2003 Professional Development Institute will address a wide assortment of topics on the training, development, and management of lawyers.

Retention: Firms need strategies to retain promising associates even in a down economy. This issue provides an article that offers strategies for developing and retaining associates that will help your firm maintain a competitive advantage in any economic environment.

Case study: A California law firm has shown its commitment to environmental sustainability by becoming certified as a "green" business and creating a new practice group to help clients who share that commitment. In the process, it is strengthening its bottom line as well as its pride and sense of community.

Management Tip: Law firms face difficult challenges in trying to welcome and integrate new partners and associates who join the firm. This issue's management tip shows how one firm used a simple but effective technique to welcome a large group of new arrivals.


1. Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) 4th Annual Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference, October 30, 2003, New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, New York City. I recently completed a study of cross-gender and cross-race mentoring relationships among lawyers that was sponsored by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. My co-investigator, Dr. Rita Boags, and I will be presenting our findings and recommendations at this conference. In our study, we found that women and minority lawyers who appreciate the importance of having mentors, know how to find and attract mentors, and make the effort to do so, established many valuable mentoring relationships. At the conference, we will discuss how lawyers and legal employers can initiate and support successful mentoring relationships for women and minorities. Dr. Boags and I have written a guidebook based on our study entitled Mentoring Across Differences: A Guide to Cross-Gender and Cross-Race Mentoring Relationships, which will be published by the MCCA later this month. The next issue of Management Solutions will present more about our findings and the guidebook. In the meantime, if you would like more information about the MCCA conference, please go to for the conference agenda and registration information.

2. 2003 Professional Development Institute (PDI), December 4-5, 2003, Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. This conference, sponsored by NALP and ALI-ABA, will provide two days of programming on many aspects of lawyer training and professional development. There are sessions for every area of interest and every level of expertise. If you are already involved in lawyer training, development, or management, or would like to be, this is the conference to attend. One of the sessions at the PDI will be about processes for making and tracking work assignments. These processes are critical - but underutilized - drivers of law firm success. Heather V. Edes, Manager of Professional Development at Sullivan & Worcester LLP in Boston, and I will show how work assignment and tracking systems can benefit firms and lawyers. For information about the PDI agenda and registration, go to


We are starting to hear some rumbling again about associate turnover, and not just among litigation and bankruptcy lawyers. Business seems to be picking up for many law firms, and as opportunities appear, many talented associates are changing jobs. Last spring, I made a presentation at the NALP annual conference in Orlando on "Creating Competitive Advantage Through Professional Development," which emphasized the importance of investing in professional development during good and bad economic times. A reporter who heard the presentation wrote a detailed story about it in Compensation & Benefits for Law Offices. The publisher has graciously permitted me to share that article with subscribers to Management Solutions, so if you would like to read it in PDF format, you can do so here.

PDF files require Acrobat Reader to view and print. Reader can be downloaded free from Adobe.


How one firm's sustainability initiative is protecting the environment, saving money, developing new business, and enhancing firm morale

Oakland, California's Wendel Rosen Black & Dean LLP recently became one of the first law firms in the country to be certified as a "green" business. By reducing energy consumption and waste generation, and switching to recycled products, the firm received the "green" designation from the Bay Area Green Business Program, a public-private consortium coordinated by the Association of Bay Area Governments. This was achieved by reducing energy consumption and waste generation, and switching to recycled products. The environmental impact of the firm's efforts is enormous. Such changes as greater use of electronic document transmission, switching completely to recycled paper, routine two-sided printing, water and energy conservation, and use of soy-based inks will save more than 250 mature trees, 24,000 gallons of water, 40,000 pounds of greenhouse gases, and 31,450 kilowatts of electricity. The changes will also result in considerable savings in the cost of paper, water, energy, and supplies.

In addition, the firm has launched a Sustainable Business and Natural Products Practice Group that provides legal services in environmental, business, and regulatory areas for clients who want to combine business success with socially and environmentally responsible action. Becoming a green law firm demonstrates the firm's commitment in areas of special interest to these clients and makes the firm especially attractive to potential clients who share these values.

Becoming green has also had significant personnel management benefits. The involvement of lawyers and staff in a shared enterprise with socially responsible results has given everyone in the firm a sense of increased pride and morale. The process was led by a Sustainability Team comprised of attorneys and staff. The team analyzed all of the firm's environmental impacts and made recommendations for areas of improvement, including energy conservation, waste reduction, and incentives for using mass transit. In addition, an outside consultant presented an educational series to all firm lawyers and employees on sustainable practices. All of these activities helped the firm strengthen its sense of community, both internally and with the outside world.


Downey Brand LLP is the largest law firm in Sacramento and the Central Valley of California. Seventeen of its 111 lawyers joined the firm in the last 10 months. When the firm recently held its annual retreat, it introduced all these lawyers to their new colleagues in a way that promoted familiarity, inclusion, and camaraderie.

Prior to the retreat, partners interviewed each new lawyer to find out about the new lawyer's educational background, prior work experience, professional interests, hobbies, and personal life stories. Some partners went further, seeking information from the new lawyer's spouse or friends. At the retreat, partners recounted the fruits of their research as they "presented" the lawyer they interviewed to the firm. Many partners uncovered fascinating - and sometimes funny - personal and professional tidbits about the lawyers they interviewed (e.g., two of the new lawyers had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro). These introductions served several purposes. They:

  • Made new lawyers feel welcome and part of the law firm community
  • Informed the firm about the lawyers who had joined them
  • Demonstrated a culture of friendliness and good humor
  • Started personal relationships between interviewer and interviewee
  • Provided a basis for follow-up by individual lawyers who learned that their new colleagues shared common professional or personal interests.

©2003 Ida Abbott Consulting email:

voice: 510-339-6883