recent post in about Boies Schiller and Flexner reminded me of the critical dynamics associated with losing key members of a law firm. The departure of individuals responsible for a significant amount of client revenue, or those who serve in leadership positions can be traumatic events and may pose a considerable threat to firm stability. This post addresses the loss of law firm leaders.

 The loss of a law firm leader can occur as an orderly planned-for event, or it can come as a surprise to the organization. When the departure is one of those out-of-left-field surprises, it can result in disruption, loss of confidence and loss of more lawyers.

Or, it can be managed in a way in which stability is maintained.

Responding to the surprise

There are several steps a firm should consider in response to the unexpected loss of a leader, including:

  • Appoint the right spokesperson – the key members of the firm should immediately come together to select one individual to speak on behalf of the firm. The message should be clear, concise, and forthright, and address transition issues, with special attention to matters that will impact clients as well as processes inside the firm. The designated spokesperson need not be seen or presented as a replacement or new leader; however, the individual must enjoy the trust of the organization. When this individual speaks, it must resonate with authority and inspire confidence.
  • Create a transition committee – the committee should consist of a small group of respected firm personnel. Their job is to design and implement a leadership transition process. The process should strike a balance between being thorough, inclusive, and fast. Although getting a new leader in place quickly is essential, making the right choice is far more critical.
  • Communicate, communicate, and communicate – those that are involved in the transition must remember that honest, regular communication is essential to creating the confidence necessary to minimize anxiety and the risk of additional losses.

In next week’s post, I will address the creation of a leadership succession process that contemplates the eventual loss of a firm leader.