|Oregon State Bar Bulletin NOVEMBER 2006|
More Than Neglect
I write in response to the article "Succeeding at Succession" by Cliff Collins in the November issue.
Mr. Collins appears to suggest that law firms fail to plan for the future because of simple neglect when he quotes Miller Nash managing partner Thomas C. Sand: "We tend to be problem solvers. We got into the business to help other people, so we neglect ourselves sometimes."
I do not believe that the problem is simple neglect. I believe that the problem is that lawyers do not know what to do. I believe that the quote from Paul Burton, the professional development consultant, ("Like any highly personal topic it gets buried. People don’t want to talk about it.") is more on the mark.
The problem is that so long as "eat what you kill" is a major component of law firm compensation, partners do not want to slow down or retire because to do so will impact what they earn. On the other hand, the more productive partners do not want to continue to work in a law firm just to support another person’s retirement and they may leave regardless of what the agreements say. That can be addressed by restrictive covenants, you say, but restrictive covenants fly in the face of a client’s right to choose his lawyer and the client so prevented from following a lawyer who leaves the firm may still choose another law firm. Death or disability can be funded with insurance. Simple retirement cannot be.
Tough issues to think about.
Letters to the Editor
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An item in the Moves column last month misstated the background of Cynthia Phillips, who recently joined the firm of Jordan Schrader. She previously served as an assistant county counsel in Douglas, Clackamas and Lane counties, and as assistant city attorney for the city of Lake Oswego.