Partner Retirement - The Elephant in the Room

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by James D. Cotterman, Altman Weil, Inc. & Tony Williams, Jomati Consultants, LLP 

UK research in 2015 for a Jomati ReportThe Paradox of Partner Retirement – showed that many law firms and their partners found it extremely difficult to have open and constructive discussions about a partner’s retirement plans.  The partners often had not thought deeply about the alternatives available to them and the law firm leadership, often inadvertently, gave the impression that the conversation was about how soon the partner would leave or at least take a smaller piece of the firm’s profit. Indeed, some partners were so keen to avoid such a potentially difficult conversation that they moved to another firm, in many cases, years before they would have been expected to leave their current firm.

This lose-lose situation clearly helps no-one (expect perhaps recruiters).  While some best practice is now beginning to emerge it is clear that there is ample room for improvement.

In the US, although partners tend to retire far later than in major UK based firms, similar issues appear to arise. Altman Weil’s 2013 Law Firms in Transition Survey showed the following stumbling blocks when trying to address the issue.

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