Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

E-Tips: Multi-Generational Solutions Archives

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Addressing Aging Partner Issues and the Demographic Perfect Storm

I've been shining the spotlight on the younger generations in recent e-tips, so let's give equal time to older partners and executives. Their extended careers and time in the workplace are much in the news these days. A pertinent example is Grey Matters by Elizabeth Goldberg in the December issue of The American Lawyer and its electronic version on, Law Firms Face Gray Area as Boomers Age.

It's a hot topic in the employment arena. The widely read Herman Trend Alert 2008 Workforce/Workplace Forecast just came out, and three out of eight of the forecasts pertain to the circumstances of the aging Boomer workforce and its impact on the organizations in which they work. Those forecasts are:

  • More employers will make efforts to accommodate older workers in order to maintain their intellectual capital.
  • More organizations will become aware of how their lack of planning to prepare for succession of all critical personnel will hurt them.
  • The “leadership deficit” will become more apparent “as companies experience the re-careering of Baby Boomer executives” and a smaller Generation X pool.

Homing in on professional firms, these trends are related to a list of issues I compiled in 2006 highlighting the pitfalls of ignoring the threats posed by the collision of demographics, culture and the firm economic model.

  • A large cohort of baby boomers is approaching traditional retirement age with a notable lack of succession planning.
  • Some firms/organizations have mandatory retirement age requirements; they may be strict or flexible, observed and not, allowing special circumstances and subject to favoritism claims.
  • Younger partners want to assume more authority and client responsibilities and credit.
  • Many older partners feel pushed out and undervalued for their wisdom, maturity, judgment, experience and history of contribution.
  • There is an age gap in some firms that stopped hiring younger professionals and laid off many during poor economic times.
  • Establishing tiers of non-equity partners created a substantial mass of partners not required to develop the skills for major client responsibilities and senior management positions.
  • The lateral hiring craze has created a mix of cultures and partners who don't want to retain older partners and continue their compensation at expected levels.
  • Most firms are not giving enough attention and resources to professional development of younger professionals so that they will be qualified and experienced enough to shoulder the responsibilities of a fully mature and responsible partner.
  • Increasingly firms are being confronted with age discrimination claims.
  • Policies for flexibility on hours and non-billable responsibilities for senior partners are rare.

The underlying principles of Practice Development Counsel's *Next Generation, Next Destination* services are designed to address these issues for the economic benefit of firms, individuals and their clients:

  • The transitioning planning process should apply to everyone starting by age 55 and should be well thought out and gradual.
  • It is necessary to start conversations and preparation at least 5 years in advance to prepare the next generation to step up and build the client's comfort level with change.
  • There should be flexibility in application of the transitioning policies based on a merit system of submission of individual business plans.
  • Transitioning planning support should be offered to all senior partners over age 55 or whatever age is selected, substantially in advance of when individual change is to occur.
  • Make transitioning part of the partner's job description, and establish appropriate compensation during the transitioning process.
    Communicate early and often within the firm and to clients.

Elizabeth Goldberg's article gives a fine overview of the current situation in some large firms and includes some of our advice on doing transitioning planning (which incorporates succession) right.

Demographics, to a large extent are our destiny. Leadership can influence how the raw statistics shape business. Savvy and caring leadership, incorporating the values and value of all the generations in the organization, can make lemonade out of the potentially sour challenges of the gathering demographic perfect storm.

If there are holes in your organization's umbrella, we're here to help.

I encourage you to offer your thoughts on our blog or to me directly.


© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2007. All rights reserved

For coaching, training and special programs on inter-generational relations and maximizing the potential of young professionals, call Phyllis for an exploratory talk or complimentary coaching session at 212-593-1549. See and . We also provide *Next Generation, Next Destination* transitioning planning programs and services for baby boomer senior professionals and their firms.