Talking about Succession and Transition

February 17th, 2009 by Jim Cotterman

Business continuity (succession and transition) is important to both clients and their law firms.  Although many law firms may not be fully aware of its importance to clients.  At some point the client who has a relationship with the aging senior partner will start to wonder about who will be there if and when…  This leads to topics that many of us are uncomfortable discussing.  But for each of us there will be a point where the practice will extend beyond our participation. 

The client may look for a way to open the dialogue with the partner.  If that happens the partner should welcome the conversation and begin planning for continuity.  Your concern should be that the client may find the conversation too uncomfortable to take the first step.  They may take the easier path and respond to one or more of the many competitors looking to get an opportunity.  It is critical that the partners look ahead and take affirmative actions to discuss and plan for the transition. 

Younger partners may also be wary of initiating the conversation about client transition with their senior partners.  This is usually for the reasons cited above as well as for the respect we hold for seniors — the very people who mentored us along the way.  The risk that younger partners may look for other opportunities is directly related to the comfort they have that client relationships will be shared.  This leads to compensation issues currently and over the intermediate horizon, but more importantly business continuity issues longer term.  Again, if the younger partners raise the issue, embrace the opportunity to begin a conversation.  And also again, the senior partners should not wait for this to happen, they should be leading the dialogue.

Let’s also look at this from the client side, but with a slightly different twist.  That client, business owner or executive, will someday move on just as you will.  Have you discussed with them what their business continuity program looks like?  The client has their own business continuity concerns that should be addressed.  Concurrently you want to make sure the relationship you have with the client includes those who are being groomed for promotion in the client organization. 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 6:33 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.

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