Senior Partner Exit Strategy – Will They Cooperate ?

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SENIOR PARTNER EXIT STRATEGY – Will They Cooperate?

Most law firms find it uncomfortable to tackle the task of planning and documenting an exit strategy for senior partners. The basic action is simple – determine what that partner should:

• Do more of;
• Do less of;
• Start doing;
• Stop doing?

And with each question, who should they be doing it with in order to insure client continuation?

Assuming the senior partner is cooperating and has been part of the firm’s culture of building future leaders, look toward continuing an “enduring competitive advantage.”
Is there a next level of growth that can be included in the client continuation plan? Are there changes or trade-offs needed to transition the client and their engagements? If there a risk the client might cancel the relationship, what immediate actions should be undertaken?

In the past, one of our clients was working hard to receive a judicial appointment from that state’s governor. In a brainstorming session to determine the best way to plan for his departure, I felt there was a great risk to the partner’s clients hearing about this effort through word of mouth.

A contact strategy was quickly established. Both the senior partner and the primary attorney working on each engagement were present on the calls or meetings held. A surprising side benefit resulted when numerous clients not only wanted to stay with the firm, but volunteered to contact the governor and push the nomination.

This certainly demonstrates the importance of constantly reinforcing client relationships. It equally applies to the other firm attorneys working with each client and their own need to build counterpart relationships. Their primary contacts are that client’s future gatekeepers. They too should be building that enduring competitive advantage.

As assertive and engaging as the transitioning efforts are, we find one critical area is often neglected – referral sources. Experienced lawyers often develop a range of referral sources who have led them to new relationships and new clients. In turn, the attorney has served as a referral source for them. Make sure these are identified and nurtured in the client continuation plan.

To make this all work, our recommendation is a simple OPSP, One Page Strategic Plan for each client including: focus; key objective; initiative timing, key progress indicators; and scheduled reporting to firm management. One protagonist must be charged with making this happen. A member of the firm’s executive committee should be best equipped to insure the success of client continuation.

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