Succession is a hot button

What are the more than 400,000 “baby boomers” going to do in the next 10 years?  For some, who are working in private practice law firms, the issue may be particularly important — because they may be “fired.” This may not be the word used; it may be “eased out,” “de-equitized,” “transitioned to new status” within the firm. If the lawyer is lucky, he/she may still have a place to go and income (though reduced) to receive. But, egos will be bruised.

This topic is handled nicely by recent article in the New York Times. In that article, Norm Levine (a friend and client) suggests that the real issue is not age, but rather productivity. Even lawyers who are quite young can have productivity issues while “old” lawyers are still going gangbusters. The EEOC is examining this issue in a number of current cases. And the ABA Journal is following the dialogue.

This issue applies to many professions, such as the nursing profession, the accounting profession and others.

The only real protection is to make sure you’re a vigorous rainmaker; don’t let your skills deteriorate or your energy lag as you get older. Make sure you have very good client relationships and “control” the firm – client business relationship. And/or make sure you have a unique skill set that is hard for the firm to replace with younger lawyers.

Of course, if you’re a sole practitioner, you can sell your law practice when you choose to vacate the office. I am find more and more lawyers calling me about creating their exit strategy, which they expect will include a sale.  A client of mine wants to leave the practice later this year at the age of 80. He’s had a great career … and we/he just signed a contract for the sale of his practice. That’s a great way to go — on top, healthy and with time left to do other things you would like to enjoy.

Lawyers today are looking at this issue more closely than ever before. Succession planning is one of the hot topics bar associations are asking me to address as I start our on our Road to Revenue National Road Show.  Call me if you want me to visit your community.



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