Every law firm will tell you that its partners are the foundation of their firm’s success. This success hinges on the strengths of the relationships that partners have with their clients. We’ve seen only recently in the Press what can happen when once healthy relationships start to break down, with a former sector head of Watson Farley & Williams suing his firm over allegations of age discrimination and failure to pay fees. When it goes wrong like this then the firm’s reputation can only be damaged, not to mention the time and cost of dealing with the fall out, both inside and outside the firm.
Senior partners are invariably the holders of longstanding key client relationships. But everyone knows that at some point every partner will retire and leave the firm. The years leading up to retirement are a critical time for both Partner AND Firm. From the Firm’s perspective, client relationships need to be smoothly transferred to the next generation. For the Partner they will soon be leaving behind an incredibly important part of their lives, and all the identity and success that is inextricably bound up with that. Getting the balance right takes delicate handling – and making sure both parties achieve their desired goals isn’t always as straightforward as the leadership team often believes.
It is flawed thinking to think that all this can be addressed at retirement because by then it’s too late. The risks for both Firm and Partner are far too great to leave the outcome to chance, or, as with Watson Farley, to be played out in the courts.
Fortunately, there is a better way to tackle the problem, and the solution is to take control.
At Milestones, we help firms create a way of effectively managing the ongoing conversation between Partner and Firm. This removes the ambiguity and allows both to work together to create a successful outcome. Involving an independent third party with the sensitivity, expertise and knowledge of partnerships during this transition phase has significant bottom line value. Leaving these conversations to the senior leadership team or to the HR department is failing to recognise the true value and contribution that the most senior partners bring to the firm.
Research by PwC indicates that after a partner retires, they remain engaged with the firm and clients in one way or another for 20 more years. That’s a long time to have either a positive or negative influence.
Working with Milestones gives both parties a stake in the future. With years of experience of these conversations, we have a real understanding of professional services firms. We will tailor a programme that is right for your unique situation.
Our clients tell us that the programmes we run with them are less about retirement and are more an investment in the future success of the Firm and the Partner.
Talk to us to find out how to mitigate the risk to your firm.