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US law firms take advantage of early retirement myths at City leaders, argues report

New research suggests US firms are picking up top talent by taking advantage of the misconception that UK firms exit their partners in their late 50s.

Consultancy Jomati’s latest report, which involved interviews with 50 partners from 28 of the UK’s leading firms, said the trend was more prevalent in London, and had enabled US firms to recruit high quality partners in their late 40s and early 50s.

As a result, ‘UK law firms risk losing very good quality resources much earlier than they would like,’ Jomati’s report said.

The study found that of the firms interviewed, more than 40% retained a mandatory retirement age, while a number of others which removed it still required consent for partners to remain beyond a certain age.

Jomati said firms nor their partners should underestimate the impact of poorly handled partner retirements on effective succession.

‘From our research and the conversations we have had with partners, it is clear that although law firms are starting to address the issue, it is still only a minority that is providing, or considering, ways in which they might provide more structured and timely support,’ the report said.

The study also found ‘a sense, shared by firms and partners, that there is a lack of opportunity for lawyers at retirement.’

‘Partners are still moving elsewhere to prolong their careers, whether to US firms in London or to smaller English firms, but the route to the boardroom or in-house is now more difficult. We were told that “the City is knee deep in 50-something commercial lawyers all looking for a non-executive director position.”’

Jomati said it seemed common across all the firms it spoke with that a majority of partners either simply don’t plan, or else leave it very late.