How Will Your Firm Survive the Silver Tsunami?

June 18, 2024

Reading time: 2 minutes

It is no secret that a wave of Baby Boomer lawyers are set to retire in the next few years. With approximately 30.4 million Americans turning age 65 between 2024 and 2030, America has never seen so many people reach retirement age in such a short period of time. While hopefully your firm’s strategic plan has already addressed how to handle their departure, you are not alone if you have not yet considered the impact the retirement of your senior lawyers may have on your practice.

In a recent Thomson Reuters survey of U.S. mid-size law firms, the legal industry is lagging far behind in terms of leadership and firm succession preparedness. At the time of the survey, only 40% of firms surveyed said they felt prepared to deal with the retirement and succession of partners, while 61% said they were concerned about their lack of preparedness. In addition, only 37% of surveyed firms said they had a formal succession planning process in place or were in the process of creating one, and 43% had an informal process or didn’t even have succession planning on their radar. So, what can you do if you are on the wrong side of this statistical data? 

  • Create a succession plan – A robust succession plan is crucial to your firm’s future success. Consider how to best ensure the continuity of client service, appoint new leadership, and maintain stability at the firm, especially for your remaining attorneys and staff. You might also tap outgoing partners in leadership for their guidance as to how to best serve the clients you want to stay with the firm. And if you are a solo practitioner, check your jurisdiction’s rules and consider identifying a surrogate attorney as part of your succession plan.
  • Strategically hire lateral attorneys – Chances are, you will need to fill the void left by retiring senior partners to support existing practice groups. Lateral hiring is a great way to add the legal talent you need which may be immediately profitable versus the time and expense you may incur in training new associates. Just beware of the potential pitfalls of lateral hiring and be sure to conduct the necessary due diligence.
  • Increase your marketing efforts – The mass exodus of retiring attorneys means that long-time client relationships could be up for grabs. Clients who have worked with one attorney for many years may not be keen to work with someone else at your firm. They might see their attorney’s retirement as an opportunity for a fresh start with a new firm. Investing time and money in client mixers or dinners could be a great way for outgoing attorneys to introduce the lawyers at your firm that can continue to deliver the legal services and attention their clients have come to expect.

As we have all unfortunately witnessed, tsunamis can cause catastrophic damage.  However, by thoughtfully planning for the future, your firm can weather the storm of retiring boomer lawyers and enjoy continued success. 

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