Law firms throughout the country are struggling to find the balance to keep key people at every stage of development. We talked previously about how retirement should seen as a period of time when senior lawyers can experience new growth opportunities for themselves, their loved ones, and properly handled, this planning process should benefit the broader law firm community in many other ways.
The same senior lawyers that many law firms are now looking to sunset may become the untapped resources firms will need to lead the talent pool of the future?
Today, we are facing a shortage, not a surplus of talented lawyers, so law firms must begin to phase out “retirement” as we know it. As a replacement, law firms need to explore how a staged reduction in work hours and responsibilities ahead of full retirement might work. The same must be said for young people entering the profession. Our panelists agreed that no amount of money will be enough to keep talented young people from “jumping-ship” unless firms begin to address their needs and their concerns.
In my experiences with senior lawyers over the years, senior lawyers or pre-retirees are clearly not looking to fade away. They want to find fulfilling activities. They want enriching endeavors. Certainly they want to leisure… at times, and they naturally want to have fun. But, contrary to the popular media view of retirement, the most important thing lawyers anticipating retirement are looking for is their own fulfillment…their own sense of purpose and meaning. The idea of a more flexible retirement option, would allow not only partial retirement, so that senior lawyers can enjoy other pursuits, but also active retirement, wherein seniors can remain productively and socially engaged in the workplace. Going to a more flexible retirement as well as more flexible work schedules for all lawyers will demonstrate a fundamental shift in the way lawyers of all ages live their lives.
William Bridges, author of “Managing Transition: Making the Most of Change” (New York: Perseus, 2003) defines Transition as the inner process through which people come to terms with a change. The process takes place over a period of time as they let go of the way things used to be and reorient themselves to the way that things are now. Transition management is based on the idea that the best way to get people through transition is to affirm their experience and to help them to deal with it. In a law firm setting, managing transition means helping people to make that difficult process less painful and disruptive. Many law firms have been following the mistaken idea that the best way to get people through a transition is to deny that they are even in a transition.
Getting through this transition is not easy. Each individual will need to start where the transition itself starts: with letting go of the inner connections to the way things were. As we age, we will be faced with how we might cut back in full-time employment. What are some of the things senior lawyers might have to let go of? Income will certainly be affected; definitely there may be a loss of intellectual challenge; possibly a loss of a group of colleagues and friends; a regular place to go every morning; the familiar way you have structured your time over many years. You also will be confronted with the possible lose of professional identity. These are some of the things that leaving the full-time practice of law will force the senior lawyer to think about losing. Continue reading “Managing Transition: Making the Most of Change”→
Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the Director of the Gender and Policy Program at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. Her most recent book, Brainpower (2014) contains a wealth of valuable research showing how the old career model – particularly for women – just does not work. Hewlett reports that, “fully 60 percent of highly qualified women have nonlinear careers. They take off-ramps and scenic routes and have a hard time conjuring up continuous, cumulative, lockstep employment—which is a necessary condition for success within the confines of the white male competitive model.” For too many talented women this model doesn’t work, which is why many companies find it difficult to attract and retain female talent, just when the need for the broadest talent pool is greater than ever.”
Sylvia Ann Hewlett points out that, “Despite the fact that women these days are highly credentialed (49 percent of law school graduates and 36 percent of business school graduates are female), they are not being promoted or advanced at a rate commensurate with their weight in the talent pool.” More than half of all professional and graduate degrees are now awarded to women.  According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of women with graduate and professional degrees is projected to grow by 16 percent over the next decade, while the number of men with these degrees is projected to grow by a mere 1.3 percent.
In the forward to Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps, Carolyn Buck Luce, Chair of Hidden Brain Drain Task Force made reference to closing comments made during the 2005 launching of the task forces research studies at the House of Commons in London. Patricia Fili-Krushel serves as Chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group, task force co-chair, came up with a powerful image that has loomed large in task force conversations: “These women who leave or languish, are, in effect, the canaries in the coal mine, the first and most conspicuous of an out-dated, dysfunctional career model.” Fili-Krushel then went on to enumerate some of the other casualties: “58-year-old baby boomers who don’t want to retire but are no longer willing to put in 70-hour weeks; and 28-year-old Gen X and Y men who want to be better, more involved fathers than their dads were, and need flexible work.”
 Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2007) p. 1.
 National Center for Educational Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics Tables and Figures 2005, table 246, “Degrees conferred by degree-granting institutions, by level of degree and sex of student: Selected years, 1869-70 through 2013-14,” http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d05/tables/dt05_246.asp, Data is for academic year 2004-2005.
 National Center for Education Statistics, Projections of Education Statistics to 2012. Data projected to 2012. Calculation by the Center for Work-Life Policy.
 In February 2004, Sylvia Ann Hewlett (Center for Work-Life Policy and Columbia University), Cornel West (Princeton University and Carolyn Buck Luce, the Global Pharmaceutical Sector Leader at Ernst & Young LLP, founded the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force. The idea was to persuade corporations to become stakeholders in an effort to fully realize female talent over the life span of their careers. The mission of the task force is to identify, develop, and promote a second generation of corporate policies and practices that support women’s ambition, work, and life needs. By June 2006, the task force had grown to thirty-four global corporations, representing 2.5 million employees, operating in 152 countries around the world.
 Remarks made at House of Commons, London, February 24, 2005.
The aging of the workforce is something that the legal profession can no longer ignore. The legal marketplace has yet to feel the impact of the loss of massive numbers of baby boomers that will be leaving the profession. Over this same period of time, fewer and fewer “talented” young people are expected to enter the profession. Demographic and economic projections suggest that the shortage of workers will start soon and grow significantly.
The Employment Policy Foundation (EPF) estimates that 80 percent of the impending labor shortage will involve skills, not number of workers potentially available. Within the next several years, this shift in age distribution will cause law firms to experience an unprecedented “brain drain,” unless dramatic steps are taken by law firm leadership to look for new approaches to attracting and retaining key people. This “War for Talent” is only just beginning. Continue reading Understanding the War for Talent – Aging of the Workforce→
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In addition to coaching lawyers, Stephen is an adjunct faculty member in the Marketing department at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia as well as an adjunct in Professional Studies at Neumann University in Aston, PA.. As such Stephen has acquired a wide range of professional and life experiences that have proven to be of value in working with accomplished professionals.
Stephen believes that teaching young adults helps him gain a greater appreciation for the challenges high level attorneys are facing in trying to sustain and grow a law practices in these trying times especially while trying to maintain a balance between work and family responsibilities.