The National Law Journal reports that an alarming number of law firms have drastically cut recruiting and professional development staff over the past two years. The NLJ quotes an Altman Weil consultant saying that this is one of the first areas of cost cutting.
It's an interesting development and not surprising. It seems doubtful that hard-pressed bottom-line-driven senior associates and partners will pick up the slack on professional development.
The survey found that firms with 250 or more attorneys suffered the biggest losses in this area and placed more duties on existing staff. Unfortunately, these departments also work on other important efforts with professional staff, including mentoring and diversity, work-life balance and pro bono initiatives. Many of the most critical areas that our profession must address.
In stressful economic times, let's hope our profession doesn't lose sight of the long-term impact of ignoring such important efforts as furthering greater diversity and providing pro bono services -- some of the most important values we hold as lawyers.
We can only hope that corporate clients will continue to seek out outside counsel that are committed improving areas of deficiency in our profession, as well as providing efficiencies in client services.