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Law Firms

Axing Mandatory Retirement Brings ‘Economic Opportunity Cost’

Posted Nov 28, 2007 11:19 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Law firms eliminating mandatory retirement have their work cut out for them.

Several big firms have announced they are abandoning their forced retirement policies in favor of more flexible systems. They include Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

The firms will now have to implement a system to evaluate older lawyers that rewards them based on their contributions. Altman Weil law firm consultant Ward Bower told the National Law Journal that new systems could create headaches for law firms.

Supervising lawyers will have to spend more time on evaluations to make sure older partners don’t suffer a decline in abilities, he said. "It requires a lot more scrutiny," he told the legal newspaper. "You have to have a way to get senile people out of there."

The extra evaluations will take time away from work that could be billed to clients. "There's an economic opportunity cost to this kind of management," he added. "It's like the top salesman who becomes the sales manager."

But Peter Kalis, chairman of K&L Gates, said lawyer evaluations are a fact of law firm life. "It's a cop-out by law firm management not to engage in proper evaluations and reward system for lawyers of any age," he told the NLJ.

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