Each day, 10,000 baby boomers retire. That number may include members of your law firm's leadership team. Since it can take up to five years to groom a successor, the time is now to position your firm for a successful transition to the next generation.

Tips for Effective Succession Planning for Your Law Firm

Convince Your Team it Matters

The most difficult part of planning is often persuading the partners and attorneys that planning is necessary.

But creating a succession plan is required by Rules of Professional Conduct in many states, and strongly encouraged in several others, including California. Having a plan can instill confidence in your employees and lend your firm credibility with clients, all of whom gain peace of mind when they know their long-term interests are protected.

Know Who's Leaving Your Law Firm

Identify partners who plan to retire or step away from leadership roles within the next five years. Create a detailed list of their current responsibilities so you know which tasks will need to be covered when they retire.

Identify Likely Successors

Ask if the retiring partner has any candidates in mind. If not, develop a strategy and timeline for finding someone. Ask the retiring principal what skills, character traits, experience and knowledge a successor will need. When looking at current staff, leverage past performance reviews to pinpoint likely prospects.

Determine Training and Mentoring Needs

Once you choose a successor, identify any skill gaps that will need to be filled before they take on the role being vacated. Create a professional development plan that includes specific goals as well as action steps and milestones along the way. Decide whether the successor candidate will need to attend external training and which staff members — including the retiring partner — can provide mentoring and on-the-job training.

Create an Exit Plan

While most of the focus may be on the upcoming leader, don't neglect the person who is leaving. Work with that principal to develop an exit strategy addressing how his or her role will change and presenting a timeline for the transition. Some may desire a gradual “ease out," while others will want to draw a definite line in the sand.

Law firms have an obligation to clients who may be impacted when a principal leaves the firm. By creating a strategic succession plan — and allowing enough time for its proper implementation — you'll not only uphold that obligation, but maintain client relationships and your firm's long-term success as well.

City National Bank, its managed affiliates and its subsidiaries, as a matter of policy, do not give tax, accounting, regulatory or legal advice. Rules in the areas of law, tax, and accounting are subject to change and open to varying interpretations. You should consult with your other advisers on the tax, accounting and legal implications of any proposed strategies based on your particular circumstances.