I recently attended a CLE with approximately 25 other people. Two individuals introduced themselves as managing partners of their small law firms. Both were in their 60s and both indicated their firms had not yet identified logical successor candidates to lead when they retire. The situation these partners find themselves in is not unusual.
A recent New York Times article reported nearly half of the managing partners in law firms are in their 60s. But according to another recent survey, only one quarter of law firm leaders believe their firms are doing a good job planning for leadership succession.
What prevents law firms from creating succession plans to replace their leaders? Often, it stems from one of these usual suspects:
Firms that don’t plan for leadership succession face one of two choices:
For law firm leaders who want their firms to survive, advanced succession planning is the obvious choice.
If your firm does not currently have a plan in place, now is the time to create one. A few options to consider include:
I recognize that, for many firms, these options may raise some concerns. But all of them are more likely less problematic than not having anything in place when the present managing partner inevitably leaves or retires.
While an easy solution may not exist, avoiding basic leadership succession planning puts a law firm’s future in serious jeopardy. It is best to have a solution in place, even if that solution is not ideal. With enough time, most solutions can become acceptable or be changed to better fit the firm’s needs.