Practice Management — 15 August 2017
What Should You Do If A Partner Decides To Retire?

Being a partner at a law firm is the culmination of a lifetime of work: from grade school to college to law school, all the way through all of your internships, associate jobs, and partner-track positions.  So many lawyers dream of becoming a partner that they don’t have a plan in place for when one of the other partners decides to step down.  This can often throw many things in flux, as clients may leave, your branding might have to change, and someone will have to fill your partners’ shoes.  Even though it is an overwhelming proposition that many people don’t want to think about, here are a few things you should do once you find out a partner is ready to retire from law.

Contact Clients Immediately

Once you confirm that your partner is stepping down, you want to inform any clients that they work with about the change.  Assuming your partner leaves on good terms, have them discuss the future of the firm with the clients, and encourage hope for the future of your relationship.  There will be clients that consider leaving, that is simply the nature of change.  What you need to do is assure the client that, on their end, they won’t notice a difference.  If you can convince your partner to be a liaison for some of their bigger accounts, then you will have a perfect situation on your hands.

Figure Out The Best Way To Replace Them

For many firms, a partner leaving means that they are now on the lookout for a new partner.  Depending on the experience of your associates, this may or may not be the right move for you.  If you have someone waiting in the wings, then, by all means, make them a partner.  If you feel as if you could make the firm work without another partner, then you can also consider that route.  However, consider the future of the firm and the expense of rebranding: if you don’t take on another partner after one leaves, it would be a costly venture to then decide to add a partner at some point down the line.  At the end of the day, you know your firm better than anyone else.  If you think your law firm operates the best with the number of partners you had when your partner retired, then you need to find someone who is worthy of becoming a partner.  If not, you have a lot more work (and money) coming your way.

It is always stressful when a business is in transition.  The most important thing you need to remember if you lose a partner is that you need to keep the clients informed and develop a plan while your partner is still working.  If you do this, you can at least mitigate the damage done by the transition.

For more information on law partnerships, watch the following video:

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