Transition and Succession Planning for Law Firms: Securing Core Knowledge CAROLINE POYNTON

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1 Transition and Succession Planning for Law Firms: Securing Core Knowledge CAROLINE POYNTON PUBLISHED BY IN ASSOCIATION WITH

2 Transition and Succession Planning for Law Firms: Securing Core Knowledge is published by Ark Group UK/EUROPE OFFICE Ark Group Ltd Paulton House 8 Shepherdess Walk London N1 7LB United Kingdom Tel +44 (0) Fax +44 (0) NORTH AMERICA OFFICE Ark Group USA 4408 N. Rockwood Drive Suite 150 Peoria IL Tel Fax ASIA/PACIFIC OFFICE Ark Group Australia Pty Ltd Main Level 83 Walker Street North Sydney NSW Australia 2060 Tel Fax Commissioning editor Anna Shaw Design and layout manager Danielle Filardi Managing director Jennifer Guy UK/Europe marketing enquiries Robyn Macé US marketing enquiries Daniel Smallwood Asia/Pacific marketing enquiries Steve Oesterreich ISBN: Copyright The copyright of all material appearing within this publication is reserved by the author and Ark Conferences It may not be reproduced, duplicated or copied by any means without the prior written consent of the publisher.

3 Transition and Succession Planning for Law Firms: Securing Core Knowledge CAROLINE POYNTON PUBLISHED BY IN ASSOCIATION WITH

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5 Contents Executive summary...vii About the author...ix Acknowledgements...XI Chapter 1: What is succession planning?... 1 The leadership succession challenge... 1 Why firms are overlooking the broader issues... 1 Succession planning: A new paradigm... 3 Chapter 2: Succession planning through retirement... 5 The complication of mandatory retirement... 5 US retirement issues... 6 Finding a middle ground... 8 Rethinking the future... 8 Chapter 3: Succession or transformation? The changing demographic of law A growing desire for freedom Law-firm loyalty may be a thing of the past The impossible partnership carrot What to do when partners have limited confidence in those coming up behind them The implications for succession planning A new kind of law firm Facing up to the end of an era Chapter 4: Mentoring, training and the role for business services in succession planning The impact of recession The opportunity for business-services integration Mentoring for law firms Setting up a mentoring programme The importance of reward Coaching and mentoring III

6 Contents Three things every firm should do today to ensure a sound succession planning process Leadership training Creative training for time-pressured fee-earners The importance of business service integration Chapter 5: Knowledge sharing and retention to support succession planning Knowledge retention Is retaining knowledge like retaining water? Improving intergenerational knowledge flow Increasing success rates with social media Knowledge sharing through social networking The value of KM systems to succession planning What should KM professionals be doing? Chapter 6: The leadership challenge Overhauling the partnership model Bringing teams and capabilities together Case study 1: Succession planning Identifying and preparing the next generation of leaders Generational impact Avoid the big mistakes Case study 2: The passing of the baton Transitioning client relationships Transitioning relationships...50 Performance and productivity Personalities and practices Reward systems Case study 3: Borden Ladner Gervais Taking a holistic approach to succession planning The recruitment link to effective succession Mentoring Leadership training Case study 4: Mills & Reeve The knowledge-management approach to succession planning Getting fee earners to pass on knowledge Technology support...58 Training and succession planning Case study 5: Eversheds Talent management as a succession strategy Strategy at Eversheds IV

7 Transition and Succession Planning for Law Firms: Securing Core Knowledge Case study 6: Weightmans LLP Creating a culture of honest communication Meeting the very different needs of the modern lawyer Training and mentoring Case study 7: Macpherson & Kelley Lawyers A smaller firm perspective Engaging lawyers Case study 8: Knowledge harvesting Definition Process Publishing Managing risk Case study 9: Addleshaw Goddard A fresh look at knowledge capture Taking a team approach Identifying successful existing knowledge models Linking to performance Case study 10: Reed Smith In search of... search Too many documents, too little time Searching data, people and expertise The importance of ease of use Case study 11: Clifford Chance LLP Wiki gardeners Examples of wikis in use at Clifford Chance The right initiative at the right time Challenges and the role of the KM professional Take the plunge Case study 12: Optim Legal The next-generation law firm Challenging the traditional partnership model Index V

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9 Executive summary MANY BUSINESSES, including law firms, will be looking optimistically to the year ahead following a dire Having survived one of the worst recessions in living memory, organisations are looking forward with renewed confidence to an improving economy and better business conditions. Beneath the surface, however, a potential demographic crisis has been looming, and one that has likely been exacerbated by short-term thinking in recessionary conditions. For many firms, the economic troubles may well have put on hold any thoughts of succession/transition planning, but this failure to consider the ramifications of an older and soon-to-retire population could spell disaster as firms lose critical knowledge and expertise together with key personnel. According to a recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers of over 300 companies across 12 industries, the percentage of managers and executives eligible for retirement within the next five years rose far more in 2008 than in 2007, compared to other employees. Quite simply, the baby-boomer generation is nearing retirement and will soon leave their firms. Generation X should be lined up to take their place. But for one thing, this generation is far smaller than the baby boomers. Not only that, but they often have different aspirations. A noticeable trend in recent years, for example, is law firms introducing alternative career paths to partnership. Combined with increasing calls for flexible working and a fair work-life balance among younger generations, a trend is emerging that is overhauling assumptions of a successful legal career creating a new vision in which partnership (or reaching the top ) no longer necessarily signals success. Increased job mobility adds to this generational melting pot of challenges to potentially threaten a firm s long-term stability. Few lawyers today, for instance, would expect to spend their whole careers with just one firm. Firms now have to fight to both attract and retain the best talent in an increasingly competitive market. They are also always at risk of losing their critical expertise which ultimately also means their clients. Of course for many firms, such mobility is not new. Many have become adept at sophisticated recruitment strategies based on sound business-development and marketing principles that successfully sell the firm. But the recession has introduced an entirely new dimension to the recruitment and retention challenge facing firms. In the fight for survival, redundancies have become commonplace as well as budgetary cutbacks impacting long-term projects or those programmes perceived to be non-critical i.e., those such as succession planning. Now, with a reduced and possibly more dissatisfied workforce and a demographic crisis on the horizon, firms are facing a crisis one in which the younger generation are neither willing nor suitably trained to take over the reins of leading their businesses. Transition and Succession Planning for Law Firms: Securing Core Knowledge VII

10 Executive summary examines emerging demographic trends against most recent developments in the legal profession to assess just what challenges lie ahead. It then looks to provide realistic and simple solutions that can be cost-effectively applied in a post-recessionary environment. The report considers numerous issues including: The impact of Generations X and Y on the practice of law in the 21 st century. What do senior management need to know to ensure a smooth transition to the next generation? The retirement of the baby-boomer generation. What ongoing risks does this pose to a law firm s business stability? The current preparedness of the younger generation to take the reins of their businesses. Do they even want to follow in the retirees footsteps? To what extent has the recession turned an ongoing succession challenge into a potential crisis, as numbers of lawyers, support staff and resources have been cut? What are the potential solutions how can strategies such as mentoring, leadership training, after-action reviews and interactive learning help enable smooth transition between generations? What role can technology and particularly Web 2.0 tools play in addressing the succession challenge? And whose responsibility is succession planning anyway? a business crisis, as law firms lose vital knowledge and the means to effectively serve clients. By taking stock of the challenge now, firms will not only ensure for themselves a more secure organisational set-up, but will also have the means to impress clients with the kind of long-term thinking that protects their business interests. In the postrecession environment, firms will be keen to demonstrate to clients their long-term resilience following months of uncertainty. Having a sound transition plan will be a key part of achieving that goal. A good transition plan will also result in a team of more engaged and loyal lawyers who want to stick with their firms a surely much desired outcome in an environment where nothing stays still for very long. In the next five years, law firms will be transitioning their businesses to the next generation. Those that fail to implement succession strategies now may well find themselves with a leadership gap in just a few years time. And what may start as an internal problem will soon escalate to VIII

11 About the author CAROLINE POYNTON is a business journalist, with particular expertise in the legal sector. Before going into freelance journalism in July 2007, she was for six years editor of Managing Partner magazine, an Ark Group publication dedicated to senior management in the legal profession. Since working as a freelance journalist, she has written numerous features, as well as in-depth reports, not only on the legal profession, but also on corporate communications and business management generally. She has also worked as a freelance editor on publications including Ark Group s FD Legal and the KermaPartners Quarterly, a publication published by management consultancy KermaPartners. She has published several reports with Ark Group, including Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery for Law Firms (2008), Managing the Evolution of Libraries and Information Services (2008) and Delivering Business-Critical Knowledge Management (2009). IX

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13 Acknowledgements THE AUTHOR would like to thank the many kind contributors to this report, whether for their general support or specific guidance. In particular, many thanks to those who contributed case studies or features to the report Tom Baldwin, James Cotterman, Sam Dimond, Mark Gould, Phyllis Weiss Haserot, Nick James, Norman Letalik, Mark Landon, Jay Liebowitz, Angus MacGregor, Cora Newell, Duncan Ogilvy, Damian Paul and Tom Young. XI

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