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What happens when the partner I work for retires?

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I'm a second year associate. The partner I work for is getting older. I'm not sure when she plans on retiring and this is something that we've never spoken about. 100% of my work comes from this partner. My practice group is quite broad but I havent done any work for the other partners. What happens to me when she retires? Would I just start working for one of the other partners? Or would I have to start looking for a job elsewhere?

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Sounds like you should start buildilng a reputation with other partners? Or as a second year associate, the market only continues to open up if you want to stay in private practice. 

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If you are 100% working for that partner, you may very well find yourself looking for a new position when that partner retires. If you think their retirement is not far off it would be prudent to either try to diversify your practice by working for other partners as well, or be proactive and look for a new position before that is forced upon you.

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I think before she retires you have to best her in combat - then you get her powers (files) and are deemed Partnor!  Good luck and may the Gods be on your side!

... or maybe you should do what the others said.  Although, there is nothing wrong with getting extremely versed in the area of law you are working in.  If it is a profitable practice area, you know all of the clients (if you don't push this partner for more contact), you know the law, you like the area- you may have what is called a "partner track". Of course this depends on a great many things firm size, tradition etc. etc. 

Having a what's my future look like discussion with this partner.  If her timeline is 5 years- you may be in a very good spot. If it is next year - maybe less so.

 

 

 

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Does the partner have a specialized practice such that when they retire the firm will want to replace them to keep that practice going? For example if they are the only tax lawyer the firm would probably want to bring in another tax lawyer rather than losing that area of practice. In this case you could continue working as a junior for the new partner. On the other hand if they are one of 20 corporate lawyers doing general corporate work, then yeah you may find yourself in trouble. 

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To be honest, you're probably too junior to have the partner transition the client(s) to you. Probably.

I'd talk to the partner first. See what they have in mind. 

I suspect the firm is contemplating a transition to another partner. If you don't know who they have in mind, you should find out ASAP. 

To me, it would make sense for the firm to plan to have you work for that other partner to ensure a smooth and cost effective transition (for the client).

I'm sure you know this already, but having one (literally) source of work at a law firm isn't a good position to be in for a junior lawyer. I've seen it work well for lawyers for several years, and then on the eve of partnership, or even shortly after partnership, they've had the work dry up and go away. Not an enviable position to be in 5-7 years into practice. 

 

 

 

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If you are getting 100% of your clients from her, you hopefully have a professional relationship with her that is solid enough to ask her directly.

Why don't you send a cautious email to her directly asking this question? This would allow her to respond with as much or as little information as she wants on her own time frame.

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This topic is a bit older but I have a perspective that I think is worth sharing.

Much of the time, if we are talking about a firm with a few partners and clients providing repeat business, the partners nearing retirement will stick around past the point of doing hardly any substantive work at all, just maintaining the relationships and farming out the heavy lifting to juniors, while passively collecting on the files. That is a good opportunity for juniors to continue getting work while building those client relationships, which should be your priority. 

Even if the partner is set to retire soon (ideally in 2-3 years rather than within 1 year or immediately), there remains a great opportunity to develop those client relationships. One of my mentors once told me how they became one of the youngest partners on Bay Street (national firm). It was due to a situation quite similar to yours. Their own mentor elected to retire. Even as a mid-level associate, they had built relationships with the retiring partner's clients such that those (major-corporate) clients did not just want to be passed off to another partner who they had never worked with, and especially not for consideration of that other partner's pocketbook. 

It could be that you find yourself in a quandary or something more serendipitous.

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