“Danger, Will Robinson!”–Baby Boomers About To Retire En Masse

I mentioned in an earlier blog the huge opportunities and challenges facing law firms with the impending baby boomer exodus from the leadership ranks. I thought I would expand on that theme here.

That’s right, you heard me–the long-standing complaint among senior associates and junior partners that they have no role in leading firms is going to radically change in the next few years. Take a look at the bios of the leaders in firms–that grey should be telling you something. That, coupled with several years of very healthy profits for equity partners (meaning less incentive to hang on and keep billing), and moreover combined with the heightened expectations of us all for long and fulfilling retirements, will all work together to create a single and compelling phenomenon: an impending tsunami of retirements that is going to rock the leadership of firms great and small. Click here if you don’t believe me.

As the referenced article advises, most law firms are blissfully unaware of the potentially crippling effect of management ranks being felled through retirement. Those that can begin to plan ahead and really take stock of their intellectual capital (meaning of course their junior and mid-level partnership ranks) and begin to groom them for real leadership, will weather the storm. Those that won’t will be scrambling to import high-ranking talent from other firms to bridge the gap.

The looming crisis could even be bad enough to force many more firms to adopt corporate-style leadership with true CEOs and all the rest (possibly even, gasp, non-attorney management!). It will be something to watch, believe me. It will also be a feeding frenzy in the recruiting world.

Mark my words, firms stuck in old-style, top-down management styles that don’t account for the development and grooming of their talent are going to be in for a shock. Further, all these factors combined with the tendency even of current leadership to think only of their own careers with no regard for the future of firms, is going to mean huge opportunities for some–and yet further rounds of mergers. Also, even those firms that have been doing a good job at bringing up good talent are going to find even greater pressures in terms of retention–good leaders are GOING to be even more aggressively recruited.

The smart money is going to be on firms that combine solid retention strategies with agressive recruiting practices and close collaberation with professional headhunters.

Bright young partners be on notice: You may be far closer in line for the ‘throne’ than you think!

You heard it here first, folks!

Pete Smith, Esq.

BCG Attorney Search

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