Alumni as a Competitive Weapon

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By Gerry Riskin | Feb 15, 2007

by Michael J. Anderson

When partners leave a firm, the firm spokesperson traditionally trots out a “we wish them well” – whether through gritted teeth or not. But tradition is now making way for a wince-making new policy of depreciating departing partners. This usually takes the form of a statement along the lines of “Bothered? Do we look bothered?”

Up until now the best quote we ever saw was from a London firm who commented, “We have one of the biggest banking and finance practices in the City, with more than 30 partners working across 10 practice areas. We act for nine of the world’s top 10 banks, and two partners leaving aren’t going to have any meaningful impact on our business.”

This doesn’t exactly endear one to former partners, many of whom may be in a position to provide less than complimentary commentary to the legal press about your firm; may one day want to come back; or end up in an in-house counsel position and able to determine where massive legal dollars will be spent; or may be able to refer conflicts to your firm; or not!

As law firms, we often look at our brethren in the accounting field for ideas on how to better optimize our businesses. After all, the accountants were the first to develop practice groups which most law firms have now emulated. They were the first to develop client teams, which many of us now also imitate. That raises the question: Why have we been so slow to create alumni groups which the accountants have used for years?

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