Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail gives a rare view into what happens to a law firm when a key rainmaker departs.
The more publicized case is when a lawyer leaves with a “book of business” and goes to hopefully greener pastures with another firm. Gnashing of teeth (and sometimes litigation) results. Clients are often caught in the middle of a tug-of-war, which doesn’t do much to foster long-term loyalty.
Recently for leading Canadian firm Osler Hoskin & Harcourt, things were different. Late last year, longtime partner Peter Dey departed to become chairman of Paradigm Capital Inc., an institutional investment dealer.
As the paper notes:
So when it came time last year to wrap up business with his law firm clients once again, Mr. Dey had the drill all worked out. Namely, he started bringing in other partners to transfer work within the firm.
It’s what he did with the Royal Canadian Mint, for example, which last year retained him to offer advice on executive compensation matters. While the government agency was content to deal with Mr. Dey, despite his impending departure, the corporate governance expert took the added initiative to bring a younger Osler colleague, Robert Yalden in the firm’s Montreal office, to shadow him on the file.
Then this caught my attention as it is something many people don’t consider at the time:
Relationships between law firms and clients are fragile at the best of times, and when a lawyer retires, the loss can trigger wandering eyes.
If retirement can cause “wandering eyes,” what does “bolting for a bigger draw” cause?
The pressures to hit billing targets can cause some law firm partners to zealously control access to clients. But if a firm is truly a firm–and not a confederacy of rainmakers and assorted hangers-on–it is essential to treat clients like the relationship matters. In this case, Osler and Mr. Dey appear to have brought the clients to the table.
Which makes it more likely that they will stay for dessert and pick up the check.