Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sucession planning and the war for talent

Dr. Larry Richard, who heads up the Leadership and Development practice group for Hildebrandt recently spoke at my firm's Partner Retreat, where he opined on a number of points.

One of the more interesting dilemmas facing law firms is succession planning for all the baby-boomer partners heading towards retirement. In his presentation, 'The Talent Challenge: Lessons on Lawyers and Leaders', Dr. Richard states that the 80 million boomers in our population represent 70% of law firm Partners and are starting to retire. The next generation, GenX only represents 40 million of the population and the group farthest from Partnership, GenY, has a whopping 80 million. Bottom line is that the bulk of partnerships at large law firms across the country will be retiring soon. I'm not sure how many firms really have a good grasp on how to transition the knowledge, but more importantly, the relationships and books of business these partners have.

It's also an intriguing study when looking at the various generations with in a law firm today and the generational differences. Dr. Richard was kind enough to let me post one of the slides from his presentation, which does a great job of succinctly outlining the 4 generations and their traits.

What's most interesting is the transition that has taken place in the perception of lawyers entering a law firm in their first year. The Traditionalists and many Boomers entered the legal profession with the mindset that the first law firm they work for will be their last - lifers. Gen Yers will likely have anywhere from 5-8 career changes and many leave law school with no intention of practicing law. They won't sacrifice their personal life for the sake of their career, a heretical concept to many Traditionalists and Boomers. The current vintage of young associates is a far cry from the ones currently leading most firms, which makes it all the more difficult for them to relate and properly motivate them. Given the growth of most large firms and the relative flat line of law school graduation rates, it's a sellers market for law schools grads and younger associates. Another great quote from Dr. Richard's presentation, summing up the war for talent, comes from Robert Sheehan of Skadden, Arps - New York, "It's a sobering thought that all of my assets go down in the elevator every night, and I can only hope that they come back up the next morning."

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