By Anna Louie Sussman
Feb 12 (Reuters) - Law firms' increased fear of alienating
valuable clients since the recession has prevented them from
implementing much-needed succession plans in their companies,
said Alan R. Olson, a principal in consulting firm Altman Weil.
"I'm still seeing firms planning only effectively at the
last minute," said Olson, author of a new paper on succession.
Without a leadership transition plan in place, law firms may
face expertise gaps and the loss of client relationships, he
said. Having a long-term plan, ideally one that can be
implemented over the course of about five years, helps
transition clients to new lawyers and teams and allows time to
train lawyers who may lack the expertise or knowledge of a
departing partner, Olson said.
The issue is critical for law firms now because 30 percent
to 40 percent of actively practicing lawyers in the United
States and Canada are beginning to retire, already phasing down
or considering phasing down, said Olson.
Instead of tackling the issue head-on, law firms tend to
avoid creating a succession plan, said Olson, who has worked on
succession issues with law firms for 20 years. In instances
where transition plans do exist, they often include overly
optimistic assumptions, have strategic gaps or lack realistic
contingency plans, he said.
Firms need to begin addressing the succession issue by
taking inventory of their own practice areas, he said.
Once the firm has analyzed its demographics and its
long-term goals, it must begin the difficult conversations that
succession engenders, said Olson. Having a well-designed
succession plan with clear objectives can make those discussions
"Talking with senior lawyers, many of whom might be at their
peak in terms of performance and productivity, can certainly be
uncomfortable for an individual lawyer, but that's a barrier
that needs to be crossed," said Olson.
"Doing so in a planning context doesn't remove all the
discomfort, but there's a better chance to create a win-win-win
outcome for clients, the firm and the individual."
Follow us on Twitter @ReutersLegal | Like us on Facebook