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Law firms, just like any other business, must make preparations to deal with the loss of key employees and the hiring of new ones. Peter Scott, principal of Peter Scott Consulting and former managing partner of Eversheds’ London and European offices, explains to Diana Bentley how practices should address succession planning and why it is important to ensure a firm’s longevity.
Succession planning should be regarded as one of the most important issues for law firms. It involves the future wellbeing of a firm, including issues over a firm's future leadership, the prevention of loss of talent and client relationships, and the reconciling of the interests of older partners, younger partners, key staff, managing partners and clients. The key word is ‘planning’ because forward-planning is vital if effective succession planning strategies are to be put in place.
For sole practitioners the succession problems are even more acute, such as:
Many firms, and in particular some older partners, just put their heads in the sand and hope the problem will go away. Reasons given for this are myriad and some of the most frequently heard reasons are:
Most often I suspect the real reason is that those who are running a firm just do not have the skills or knowledge to deal with the difficult issues involved.
As already mentioned, a succession plan should aim to reconcile the interests of older partners, younger partners, key staff, managing partners and clients, with a view to safeguarding the future of a firm. However, other considerations also come into the picture. These include:
A succession plan should look to make optimum use of all productive resources (including its people) of a firm and to secure the current and future wellbeing of everyone in the firm.
Succession planning should be part of designing career paths for everyone in a firm including:
For older partners:
For younger partners:
Furthermore, firms should forget clients in succession planning at their peril and involve them in their thinking. Above all, firms should find out from all their people what they want from their careers (i.e. not everyone wants to become a partner and some older partners would very much like to retire earlier), as well as invest in their people to realise their full financial value to the business.
Peter Scott is principal of Peter Scott Consulting and former managing partner of Eversheds’ London and European offices.
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