One of the most intriguing parts of working for a law firm is the opportunity to study the dynamics of the firm culture. Up close, with so many determined and goal-oriented individuals, a law firm is a lifetime of lessons in human psychology, relationships, lifestyles. What I have found, at least with the firms that I have known, is that one individual is the glue that keeps the firm stable and viable. At some firms it is a partner that sets the tone while at others it is a senior staff member. I'm sure this is similar to other service providers and companies. But at a law firm with so many "A" personalities the sudden absence of the "glue" will create a larger wave.
In Southern California I've seen it several times. The person that was the center of stability left (retired or other) and the firm went through a time of internal turmoil. Some firms became stronger in the end while others diminished.
Having witnessed it enough times my advise is for every firm to know, "Who is the glue", and spend time thinking and planning for that person not being there. Is there someone within the firm that can become a righthand? Can they be mentored? Can a plan of transition be agreed upon right now so that the rules of change are in place before change happens. Does the firm need to hire someone?
Change happens. I am at a firm that has had it's "glue" in place for a wonderfully long time. And it shows in the success we've enjoyed. But nothing is permanent except maybe the law of gravity. I hope to bring about the type of planning I've just recommended.
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