At least 30 large law firms have announced leadership changes in the past year; is burnout to blame?

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At least 30 large law firms have announced leadership changes in the past year; is burnout to blame?

At least 30 large law firms announced leadership changes in the past year or so, corresponding to a period in which firms are focused on growth. Image from Shutterstock.

At least 30 large law firms announced leadership changes in the past year or so, corresponding to a period in which firms are focused on growth.

Law.com addressed reasons for the turnover.

“Some have suggested burnout could be to blame, or that some firms could have delayed leadership changes until after the pandemic, or that a generational transition was in order,” Law.com reports.

“Each firm’s leadership turnover is rooted in different causes, of course, but they all manifest in an era where firms have ‘never been more keenly focused on growth,’” the article reports, citing legal industry analysts.

One leader stepping down is Elliott Portnoy, the CEO at Dentons, who has announced that he plans to relinquish his post when his current term ends in November 2024. He remarked in an interview with Law.com that even one year on the job can seem like several.

“Without sounding too glib, law firm leadership feels a bit like dog years in terms of how they’re measured,” Portnoy said. “In fact, a full year is a pretty long time.”

Other firms recently announcing leadership changes include Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Boies Schiller Flexner; Proskauer Rose; Loeb & Loeb; and Norton Rose Fulbright.

Brad Karp, the chair at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, told Law.com earlier this year that he expects that extended terms for firm leaders will decline in popularity because the “burnout risk is too great and the pressures too significant.”

But Brad Hildebrandt, the chair at Hildebrandt Consulting, said he didn’t get the sense that leaders are leaving because of the overwhelming nature of the job. He knows many firm leaders who have decided to step down, he told Law.com.

With few exceptions, “all of these people are retiring or are on term limits. It wasn’t because they were tired or didn’t want to do” the job, Hildebrandt said.



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