May 09, 2012 Articles

Transitioning Client Relationships Within a Firm

How do you make sure client relationships are successfully transitioned from one lawyer to the next generation so the firm maintains the client?

By Teresa G. Minor

The lifeblood of any law firm is its clients. A firm can have lawyers with the highest credentials, stellar reputations, and track records of success but without strong, ongoing client relationships, the firm simply will not survive. This truism begs the question: How do you make sure those client relationships are successfully transitioned from one lawyer to the next generation so the firm maintains the client? A few points to consider:

Establish the Right Firm Culture One of the first, and perhaps most important, steps is to make sure your firm culture supports successful client transitions. In other words, make sure the firm has procedures in place to make the experience as positive as possible. All attorneys get anxious when they see their careers winding down. Perhaps they do not want to acknowledge that they are getting older, or perhaps they bristle that the firm is trying to push them out the door. On the other hand, younger partners want to know where they stand in the firm and need to feel that they have an important role with the firm’s clients. A stable transition process can help to allay these concerns. Consider requiring all partners, regardless of status (i.e., equity or non-equity), to draft a transition plan for all of their clients at a certain point. This point can be a specific age or some other milestone. The benefit to this is that no partner can reasonably believe that he or she is being singled out. Moreover, it will help the firm ensure that no clients fall through the cracks. Firms spend lots of resources engaging in succession planning for high-revenue clients, but the reality should be to have a transition plan for every client.

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