Partner Succession: The Administrator's Role

Published 05/01/10

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Administrative, staffing, financial, client relations and human resources concerns are central to a law firm administrator's succession planning responsibilities.

The recent recession forced many law firms into de-equitization and de-facto termination of older partners who may have high billing rates, but who bring in less business than more active, younger partners. In effect, the recession has revealed that partnership in a law firm is no longer a tenured position. As law firms become more subject to the corporate world's competitive dynamics, they must reflect those dynamics in their operations. Each partner who is severed from a firm – whether by mutual agreement, a nudge out the door or outright termination – was originally added to the partnership for a reason. However, times of crisis are leading firms to make changes rather than hold on to partners who were once valued.

Administrators can find themselves squarely on the spot in dealing with partner succession dilemmas – and they can, in fact, play strategic roles in helping to manage and defuse a variety of potential conflicts. Thus, firm administrators must understand the consequences of the process and their roles in it. This goes far beyond making sure law firm assets are not removed or sabotaged by departing lawyers; it also involves important administrative, staffing, financial, client relations and human resources concerns.

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