Mandatory Retirement — Ongoing Discussion
April 21st, 2008 by Jim Cotterman
Premise: You are on the Executive Committee of a large law firm with a mandatory decompression and retirement provision and the authority to grant waivers (although that authority has never been used). A senior partner two years out from mandatory retirement requests a waiver. This partner has close personal relationships with several key clients in your firm’s core practice area of securitized finance. Do you grant the request?
This is one of several fact scenarios a six-member panel of experts discussed at a recent New York City Bar event. The moderator was Dean Joan Wexler and the event was co-sponsored by the Committee on Senior Lawyers and the Public Service Committee of the Federal Bar Counsel. The event is part of the ongoing awareness efforts stemming from the NYSBA report on mandatory retirement and the NYCB report on the use of lawyers of retirement age in pro bono practices.
The Committee debated the effects of an ad hoc approach to waivers; the potential consequences of a waiver precedent on other senior partners approaching and in the decompression program; the possible adverse reaction of younger partners who enthusiastically support the policy; the likelihood that no waiver might force the withdrawal of that senior partner along with the key clients and associated revenues; client reaction either way; the ABA position on mandatory retirement and the potential legal issues that might arise out of the Sidley Austin case coupled with the announcements of several law firms regarding changes to their own provisions.
Clearly this topic requires further discussion within firms as an aging, but largely active, lawyer population approaches the traditional retirement years. There are competing interests involved. However, I agree with the NYSBA report’s consensus view that “…mandatory age-based retirement is inconsistent with accepted employment practices in this country…” and that “such practices are against the best interests of law firms, clients and the professions…”
Now is a good time for law firms to engage in a dialogue about their own provisions and what is in the long term best interests of their firm, partners and clients. More information can be found at the NYSABA Special Committee on Age Discrimination in the Profession web site.
This entry was posted on Monday, April 21st, 2008 at 5:55 am and is filed under Retirement. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.