Sidley introduces leadership-oriented career development track for associates

Chicago firm's new programme includes paid-for access to external MBA-level executive leadership training and opportunity to earn new enhanced job titles
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Sidley Austin has introduced an associate leadership and executive development programme designed to equip client-focused lawyers with business acumen and greater leadership abilities. 

The programme, set to kick off on 1 January when it will be made available to associates in their fourth to eighth year at the firm, will aim to provide Sidley associates with a path to new career milestones, including promotions with new enhanced titles like managing associate or senior managing associate, the Chicago firm announced on Thursday. 

Under the scheme, associates will gain access to professional development opportunities, including a variety of external initiatives like the chance to receive MBA-level executive leadership training at several top business schools including Harvard, the University of Chicago and Northwestern, which will be paid for by the firm. 

Associates will also be able to receive mentorship from an internal executive leadership academy focused on business, client and professional skills and have the choice to participate in hands-on group service projects developed with nonprofit legal and community organisations coupled with civic leadership training. 

Michael Schmidtberger, chair of Sidley’s executive committee, said the programme’s establishment had much to do with the firm’s “comprehensive approach to associate development and wellbeing”. 

“We are committed to providing our associates with the resources and training necessary to help them become the best possible version of their professional selves over the long term – this programme directly responds to their desire for development and leadership opportunities,” he said. 

Sidley currently boasts nearly 1,000 associates and 51 senior associates dotted across its 20 offices in the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific, according to the firm’s website. 

Yvette Ostolaza, chair-elect of Sidley’s management committee and global co-leader of its litigation group, added that the career coaching offered to associates through the scheme will allow lawyers to “chart their own path” whether they decide to stay with the firm for the rest of their careers or “become a leader at a client or in their communities”. 

“We recognise that our clients value lawyers who understand big-picture business issues and how those impact their legal matters,” she said, adding that the firm sees the programme as an “opportunity to prepare our associates to rise to the challenges our clients face in an increasingly complex and dynamic global market”. 

The announcement comes as the battle for young talent continues to rage between US law firms as they try to stand out in a hypercompetitive recruiting market that saw a number up associate pay over the summer, as demand and activity levels at the top end of the US legal services market seemed to have returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to research published by Thomson Reuters in August.


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