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Robert Half Legal Survey: Four in 10 Law Firms Lack Leadership Succession Plans

May 17, 2012

MENLO PARK, Calif., May 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- If a law firm loses its top leaders, who will take their place? It's a question without an answer within many organizations, new research from Robert Half Legal indicates. Nearly four in 10 (39 percent) attorneys polled said their law firm does not have a succession plan in place for its key leadership roles. Among those without succession plans, close to half (49 percent) said there are no intentions to develop one.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Legal, a premier legal staffing firm specializing in lawyers, paralegals and other highly skilled legal professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 175 lawyers at the largest law firms in the United States and Canada.

Lawyers were asked, "Does your law firm currently have a succession plan in place for its key leadership roles?" Their responses:


Yes

56%


No

39%


Don't know/no answer

5%



100%

Lawyers also were asked, "Does your law firm intend to develop a succession plan for its key leadership roles?" Their responses:


No, not at this time

49%


Yes, within the next one to two years

17%


Yes, within the next three to five years

34%



100%

"Leadership transition planning is an issue that many law firms often put on the backburner until a managing partner or practice group leader retires or resigns. However, the best time to create a succession plan is when one isn't needed," said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. "Proactive planning not only ensures the transfer of knowledge and business continuity but it also adds to the stability of the firm, which can be beneficial to employees, shareholders and clients alike."

Volkert noted it can take years for firms to identify and train new leaders for key roles. "When developing succession plans, consider a broad spectrum of issues, including day-to-day operations, client service, business development and practice group management," he added.

Robert Half Legal offers the following five tips for effective succession planning:

  1. Identify critical positions. Determine which specialties are core business areas and what effect the retirement of staff supporting these areas will have on the firm.
  2. Zero in on leadership skills. Look beyond a potential successor's legal expertise and client roster to determine whether that person is able to create a vision and inspire others. The best candidates often bring a variety of skills to the table.
  3. Develop a knowledge transfer process. Ask a departing employee to develop a plan for sharing as much knowledge as possible with his or her successor, such as conducting an analysis of work and preparing documentation to capture critical information.
  4. Make mentoring a priority. Once a successor has been identified, it's wise for leaders to engage in active mentoring. This may include inviting the professional to key meetings, and making him or her aware of challenges to the business.
  5. Go for a test run. Vacations can be an opportune time to put a future leader in charge and see how that person performs. Having an eventual successor take the reins during absences also may make time off more relaxing for senior attorneys.

About Robert Half Legal

Robert Half Legal is the legal staffing division of Robert Half International. The company provides law firms and corporate legal departments with highly skilled professionals, including lawyers, paralegals and legal support personnel, on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Legal offers online job search services at www.roberthalflegal.com.

SOURCE Robert Half Legal

For further information: Lisa Hamilton of Robert Half Legal, +1-650-234-6234, lisa.hamilton@rhi.com


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