Partners or senior attorneys depart from every law office at one time or another, yet most firms don't plan for this eventuality. In a recent survey, 53 percent of attorneys polled said their law firm or legal department does not have a formal succession plan in place for key positions.
The survey was developed by Robert Half Legal, a staffing service specializing in attorneys, paralegals and other highly skilled legal professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 300 attorneys among the 1,000 largest law firms and corporations in the United States and Canada. All respondents have at least three years of experience in the legal field.
Lawyers were asked, "Does your law firm/corporate legal department currently have a formal succession plan in place for key leaders and managers?" Their responses: yes 41 percent, no 53 percent and don't know 6 percent.
"It's understandable that succession planning may sometimes take a back seat to billable work or urgent legal matters, but law offices should not wait until a leader departs to begin the process," said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. "Creating and implementing a succession plan is not a quick task. It can take many years to identify and groom an attorney for an advanced leadership role."
Mr. Volkert recommends that law offices begin by choosing high-potential employees, providing them with ongoing mentoring and including them in strategy discussions relating to the operation of the firm or department.
"Succession candidates must be given ample opportunity to build their skills and leadership abilities in practice management, new business development, marketing, strategic planning and client service."