I earned my undergraduate degree in 1991. Like many other people of my generation, I learned from my parents that getting a good education was of paramount importance because you needed a good education if you wanted to land a good job. For me, a good job meant a reliable paycheck and a pension. You held onto your job for 20 or 30 years and then you put in for retirement. Once the paperwork was complete, but right before you were ready to start your retirement, your organization would throw you a party and present you with a gold watch as a thank you for your continuous and loyal service to the organization.
While that may have been the reality for the past generation, it is by no means the reality for the present generation. Employees no longer stay with one employer for 20 or 30 years. In fact, most employees today probably stay an average of five years before they move on to new opportunities.
As the leader of an in-house legal department, recognizing this new reality is equally as important as not letting this reality keep you from developing the lawyers with whom you work — even if it means preparing them for other roles that may not currently exist within your own organization.
When you take the time to develop the lawyers you have during the time you have them, you will increase your chances of retaining them. When you take the time to celebrate and recognize the contributions of lawyers who leave regardless of their longevity, it sends a message to those lawyers who remain in the legal department. It lets those lawyers who stay behind know that their organization gives credit when credit is due and that the contributions of the organization’s lawyers are appreciated.
I, for one, recently had such an experience. Earlier this month, I transitioned from the employ of one university to another. The day before I was to leave my university, that university served me with a “subpoena” and a notice to appear — at a farewell party. It was then that I was reminded of what I was going to miss most — the people.
Over the past five years, it was my honor to serve as general counsel and acting director of veteran and military student affairs with a dedicated group of people working hard to fulfill the university’s promise and commitment to its students. The best part of all?
My colleagues contributed their own money for a scholarship in my name to benefit a student who is serving or has served in the military. It does not get any better than that.
I will take a scholarship in my name any day over a gold watch. (To support this critical scholarship, next week on Giving Tuesday, please go to www.kysu.edu/givenow and in the comments section, please write: “Veterans Scholarship.” Checks can be made payable to “Kentucky State University” and mailed to Kentucky State University | 400 East Main St. | Frankfort, KY 40601.)
Lisa Lang is an in-house lawyer and thought leader who is passionate about all things in-house. She has recently launched a website and blog Why This, Not That™ (www.lawyerlisalang ) to serve as a resource for in-house lawyers. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org , connect with her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/lawyerlisalang/) or follow her on Twitter (@lang_lawyer).