Talking about a firm’s future is hard enough. Build onto that the need to plan for a future that doesn’t include a senior attorney… Talk about awkward! There is also fear on the part of younger lawyers. It can often feel confrontational to approach senior lawyers and ask about their future plans.
Awkwardness and fear are key reasons why law firms delay doing anything about succession planning. These are difficult conversations! But they are also necessary conversations. Here are a few helpful tips to help you start them.
You carefully and meticulously prepare matters when practicing law. This should be no different. Take the time to prepare before you approach a senior lawyer.
When planning a difficult conversation at your firm, think about:
As best you can, try to predict the senior attorney’s reaction so you can plan an appropriate response. Will there be anger? Denial? Acceptance?
It is usually best to approach the conversation as a negotiation. Expect there to be give and take. No one likes to negotiate with someone who’s first offer conveys a “take it or leave it” attitude. The firm and the senior lawyer each have certain needs and both parties must respectfully address them.
Even with the best preparation, I have no illusions the conversation will be easy. But great preparation will make a difficult conversation easier.