Math at the End of Days

Photo by Ana Arantes at Pexels

By Murray Gottheil | January 22, 2024

Let’s say that Mike is a partner at his firm. He stays for many years and builds a substantial client base.

And while we are making things up, let’s assume that Mike has been a team player and introduced his clients to his partners and associates, so as he approaches retirement age, other partners, associates and law clerks are doing much of his work.

He is in fact thinking about retirement.

Although Mike’s partners are not particularly interested in much beyond their origination credits, billings, and income, and are not known to be particularly empathic, even they can read the tea leaves and have figured out that something is up with Mike: he no longer works evenings and weekends, takes longer vacations, and drops hints such as, “I cannot do this anymore. I have had enough. I want out. It is time for me to retire.”

Subtle as those hints are, even Mike’s somewhat self-absorbed partners are beginning to take notice.

Here are some different thoughts that Mike’s partners may have:

  1. “Mike has been with the firm for many years and has contributed more than his share to its success. He has been generous in introducing his clients to other firm members. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. Perhaps we should offer to pay him a percentage of his originating credits for clients who stay with us for a few years after he goes. That might also encourage Mike to help us transition his clients and referral sources”; or
  2. “Mike is going to retire. He looks like he is at the end of his mental rope. He is unlikely to compete with us. We already have solid relationships with many of his clients because he has been good about introducing them to us. We do not owe him anything. We have been paying him for bringing in those clients forever. He has done very well here, ranking among the highest earning partners for years. Let’s encourage him to retire and then try to hold onto as many of his clients as we can.”

And here is what Mike may be thinking:

  1. “I have done so well here and have been treated so excellently by my partners over the years that I am happy to leave my clients behind and encourage them to stay at this firm. I have no intention of asking for anything in return.”; or
  2. “These people have been competitive, difficult, unappreciative, and selfish for many years. They could not care less about me, so why should I care about them? My best move is to take my clients to another firm five years before I retire and negotiate a trailer payment for the clients who stay behind after I retire.”

Do you have any Mikes at your firm?  Do you plan on treating them fairly or screwing them on the way out?

Or, are you Mike? Are you planning ahead so that you have some options?

Murray is a happily retired lawyer who lives in the country, drives a pick-up truck, writes, teaches and mentors. You can reach him at [email protected] or see what he is up to at


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