Whether you are in sole practice, one of the big five law firms, or a rural or urban law firm, succession planning is something that you simply cannot ignore. Nor should you act like an ostrich and bury your head in the hope that one day it will sort itself out.
Succession planning is exactly that: planning for succession.
Succession planning is a process where your law firm ensures that the next generation of partners are employed now, with an eye to the future.
Through your succession planning process, you can recruit staff solicitors likely to fit with your firm’s culture. You can develop their knowledge, skills and abilities, and prepare them for the advancement or promotion from staff solicitor to partner.
A well-developed succession plan process increases the retention of superior employees because they (the employees) recognise that time, attention and skill development is being invested in them for the purposes of their career development – they are a long-term investment, both for you and for the firm.
With our aging population, and more particularly that of the legal profession, it is essential for the continuity and continuing success of your firm that succession planning begins now.
This is even more evident for smaller practices and rural practices, who currently appear to be having difficulty even attracting young lawyers (when in reality that is where the young lawyers’ brightest futures lie. In the rural areas, an opportunity exists to obtain an all-round legal practice combined with a gilt edged opportunity for partnership, an opportunity which is often lacking in the urban centres.)
Generally, the earlier you tackle the issue of a succession plan the better. In reality, however, most lawyers are too busy with their day-to-day practices and the running of their firms to spend much time planning for an event which they do not expect to occur for many years.
Unfortunately for most of us, those years creep up far too quickly. It is essential that succession planning is put in place as early as possible.
Some factors which weigh against succession planning are that practitioners worry about losing their “status” of senior partner, or indeed just partner, while others worry about leaving a business which has their name associated with it, or don’t want to contemplate an untimely death of a partner.
Whatever the reason or reasons for not getting on and preparing a succession plan, they are not excuses for not planning for the future of your firm.
The alternative is to shut the door when the last partner retires and turn the light out.
One has to take the emotion out of the process, and start planning now.
If you want to protect the long-term future of your practice, now is the time to start thinking about a succession plan – not tomorrow, not next year. Succession planning not only helps to protect your business financially, it provides partners with a way to leave the practice, or at least reduce their responsibility in future years and hand the practice over to the next generation. A necessary evil … YES!