“The Church is always one generation away from extinction.”—Archbishop of Canterbury

According to the 2018 Citi Law Firm Group Client Advisory, one-third of equity partners are at or approaching retirement age

2018ClientAdvisoryEquityPartnerDemographics

Citi’s 2018 Report also has this to say:

“Looking ahead, we anticipate further changes to the leverage model in response to market pressures. And as the industry has slowed equity partner growth over several years, the result is an aging population. We anticipate an onslaught of retirements in the coming years, raising questions about the size and shape of law firm partnerships in the future.”

Yet according to various surveys, about two-thirds of firms have taken no real, meaningful steps towards succession planning.  (We categorize “plans in development” or “we’re working on it” as not meaningful steps.)

There are two types of succession at law firms: One is the transition of key client relationships to the next generation and the second involves shifting responsibilities for managing the firm itself. Both are critical for law firm sustainability, and corporations routinely invest substantial time and energy in both.

Despite the glaring, demographics-don’t-lie, need for firms to engage in thoughtful, programmatic and long-term succession planning, the great majority simply cross their fingers and ignore laying plans for the inevitable.

 

The primary explanation for this evidently irrational behavior is:

  • The people who would be stepping aside are the very same people who would need to initiate the succession effort. (40%, 39 Votes)
  • Law firm partners fundamentally don't give a fig about the future of the firm; the day they walk out the door is the day their interest ends. (39%, 38 Votes)
  • The conversation about passing the baton would be awkward and uncomfortable. (13%, 13 Votes)
  • Emphasizing detailed plans is over-wrought; these things happen organically. (3%, 3 Votes)
  • I don't want to think about it. (2%, 2 Votes)
  • There are no obvious leaders in the next generation. (2%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 97

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