Close to 40 Percent of American Law Firms Do Not Have Leadership Succession Plans
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An astounding fact has been unearthed by a recent survey of law firms of America: Contrary to popular business practices in other professions and industry sectors, at least 39 percent of U.S. Law Firms do not have any plan in place for leadership succession. And more astounding is the fact that close to 20 percent of American law firms said that they have no intentions to develop a leadership succession plan.

The survey was done by Robert Half Legal and was conducted by an independent research firm including responses from 175 lawyers from the biggest law firms in United States and Canada. The survey contained clear questions like “Does your law firm currently have a succession plan in place for its key leadership roles?” and others like “Does your law firm intend to develop a succession plan for its key leadership roles?”

Law firm leaders, it seems, cannot visualize their separation from their firms and are totally oblivious to the damaging effects such an approach might have on stakeholders and employees. As the recent demise of Dewey showed, there is no one to take charge when all five management committee members made their dives to other firms.


An executive director of the company conducting the survey, Charles Volkert, said “Leadership transition planning is an issue that many law firms often put on the backburner until a managing partner or practice group leader retires or resigns. However, the best time to create a succession plan is when one isn’t needed … Proactive planning not only ensures the transfer of knowledge and business continuity but it also adds to the stability of the firm, which can be beneficial to employees, shareholders and clients alike.”

Volkert further observed that in law firms, it can take a long time to identify and train new leaders and “When developing succession plans, consider a broad spectrum of issues, including day-to-day operations, client service, business development and practice group management.”

The results of the survey found that for developing effective leadership succession plans for law firms, mentoring needs to have the highest priority and there should be an effective knowledge transfer process.

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