The majority of the 1,000 largest law firms and corporations in the United States and Canada are not prepared for the eventual departure of partners or senior attorneys, according to a recent Robert Half Legal survey that casts light on the lack of formal succession plans.
When 300 experienced lawyers were asked whether their law firm/corporate legal department currently has a formal succession plan in place for key leaders, 53% said no, 41% said yes, and 6% did not know.
This survey echoes an earlier report from Altman Weil, a legal management consultancy, which said that since 1977 the number of bar admissions has been dwindling each year. As current lawyers reach retirement age between 2010 and 2015, the lawyer labor market will suffer.
It is critical that law firms consider the labor and client relationship challenges that will occur in the coming decade, and also ensure that management has the tools to deal effectively with a variety of succession issues.
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“It’s understandable that succession planning may sometimes take a back seat to billable work or urgent legal matters, but law offices should not wait until a leader departs to begin the process,” said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal, in a news release.
Creating and implementing a succession plan may take many years to identify and groom an attorney for an advanced leadership role, according to Volkert
He recommends that law offices mentor high-potential employees, and include them in strategy discussions relating to the operation of the firm or department. This will provide succession candidates the opportunity to build their skills and leadership abilities in practice management, new business development, marketing, strategic planning, and client service.