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Jul 22, 2014

Law Firm Attorney Retirement – How Law Firms Are Coping With Aging Attorneys


I am the Director of Administrator in a 45 attorney law firm in Miami. Twenty of these attorneys are partners and ten of the partners are in their late fifties and mid to late sixties. While we have a semi-retirement program in place it is not mandatory and many of our senior attorneys are unwilling to address issues pertaining to succession and transition of their practices. Do you have any thoughts or ideas you can share regarding creating incentives for senior attorneys to address and deal with the issue of retirement?


Larger law firms are moving away from mandatory retirement. However, many large law firms still have mandatory retirement. According to a recent survey approximately 57% of law firms with over 100 attorneys have mandatory retirement programs. At the other end of the spectrum many smaller firms that never had mandatory retirement are beginning to incorporate some form of mandatory retirement in their agreements. In firms of all sizes and whether they have mandatory retirement programs or not – getting senior attorneys to deal and cope with aging is a challenge. Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Begin planting seeds to get senior attorneys thinking about retirement and the next stage of their lives.
  2. Conduct educational programs designed to help senior attorneys visualize their retirement years.
  3. Help provide senior attorneys with a reason to want to retire.
  4. Provide career life coaching services to senior attorneys and help them develop other interests and hobbies.
  5. Help senior attorneys develop individualized retirement/succession plans.
  6. Provide financial incentives to those that retire by say age 70 in payout agreements.
  7. Implement phased retirement/wind-down options/approaches.
  8. Consider optional roles in the firm for senior attorneys after they retire and surrender their equity interests.
  9. Insure that the firm has in place competency/peer reviews for all attorneys including senior partners and Of Counsel attorneys.
  10. Insure that the firm has a program that effectively deals with underperforming attorneys.

Aging is a difficult time for all of us and it is normal not to want to think about age related issues much less to begin planning. Your role will be to help senior attorneys take baby steps and come to terms with aging in general.

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

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