Old People

Mandatory Retirement Age for Partners: An ATL Debate

old man partner.jpgThe older generation of Biglaw partners is starting to see retirement staring them in the face. At firms that have a mandatory retirement age, getting old means getting out — forced out.

This phenomenon is affecting some big-name attorneys. Word on the street (and in our comments) is that Bob Bennett left for Hogan & Hartson in part because he simply became too old for Skadden. And today the ABA Journal reports that Michael Sohn, former managing partner of Arnold & Porter, is leaving for Davis Polk & Wardwell because of A&P’s retirement age.

ELIE: To which I say: “Yay!” With all due respect to our Baby Boomer forebears, their time on the world stage is almost up. They’ve had a good run, what with getting the bag beat out of them in Vietnam, totally selling out during the 80s, and electing two different Bushes three different times. It’ll be almost sad to see them go. They won’t be forgotten, of course. No, we’ll be paying for their extended life expectancy and Cadillac health care long after they once again kill any movement towards health care reform.

I’m surprised anybody would support these aging partners hanging on, and on, and on, in the law firm context where Biglaw is facing a real problem with attrition. Young people are being fired or held back because older people won’t gracefully move and get out of the way. Boomer partners are trying to exert dead-hand control over their firms, preventing the next generation from climbing the ladder to leadership.

I’m not saying that everybody over the age of 70 should be forcibly marched to manicured concentration camps in Florida and Arizona. There are a lot of awesome things you can do with your “golden years.” Spend time with your family, start a blog, write op-eds of significance.

But for the love of God, stop getting in the way of the younger generation that is eager to take their shot at making decisions (and profits). I know you old guys don’t see the point of Facebook, Twitter, and a totally revamped fall recruiting program — and that’s fine. Nobody is asking you to totally change your way of thinking; we wouldn’t want you to break a hip. Just admit that with age comes a certain ossification of the brain that makes it resistant to necessary change, and ease your way out of positions of power.

Of course, not everybody agrees with me; some people like it when the old guys stick around. Next up: Kash explores her Daddy issues….

Robert Morgenthau Robert Morris Morgenthau Robert M Morgenthau Bob Morgenthau.jpgKASH: When it comes to Biglaw partners, I’m really writing about Granddaddy issues, but fair enough. In fact, I think most firms are still happily in bed with the Boomers. It’s the Boomer parents who are considered too old to keep in the fold.

Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, we’re living longer and we’re not slowing down. Elie, though, seems to think that those over 70 should be eating apple sauce instead of power lunches. By this logic, the Supreme Court needs to start confiscating robes right and left (John Paul Stevens, 89; Antonin Scalia, 73; Anthony Kennedy, 73; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 76; Stephen Breyer, 71).

Brains do not go to mush, so why put partners out to pasture? They’re still capable of being studs for young legal minds. I pity the Skadden-ites who will not get to spend quality time with Bob Bennett (though at least they can read his book).

With age comes legal acumen, but perhaps more importantly in Biglaw, connections. Eagerness and youth do not translate into clients. While adding chapters to their big book of life, these Mega Boomers have added many pages to their books of business. The law firms sending their 70+ partners packing don’t just lose experience, they may be sending billable matters to a competitor without an age discrimination policy.

Those are our thoughts. Where do you stand on mandatory retirement age at law firms?

Arnold & Porter’s Age Policy Cited as Reason Partner Skipped to Davis Polk [ABA Journal]
Earlier: Breaking: Bob Bennett Leaving Skadden for Hogan & Hartson

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments