The Changing of the Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader

EVERY FIRM eventually finds itself in need of a new leader, which means the executive committee or board must seek to replace the incumbent.

Concerns over leadership succession and loss of expertise are among the biggest fears cited by current law firm leaders. But surveys show that many firms are doing little more than talk about the problem. Even where firms do have a succession plan in place, this is often found to be based on assumptions with strategic gaps and no realistic contingency plans. The result is that when law firm leaders leave abruptly, firms are thrown into chaos.

The Changing of the Guard is a highly practical step-by-step guide to the various phases that law firms need to work through in a firm leadership selection process, from choosing a nominating committee and setting a timeline, through to analysing candidates' strengths, and transition processes.

  • Patrick McKenna is an expert on law firm management and strategy issues and is internationally recognised and acclaimed for his work.
  • This report contains a complete framework for law firms to use when developing an effective and coherent process for succession planning.
  • Read valuable insight from newly appointed law firm leaders on the succession process within their firm, which highlights the challenges these leaders faced and includes advice for firms about to embark on a similar process.
  • Gain contextual knowledge from research and surveys conducted by Patrick McKenna with law firms over the past couple of years.


"Patrick J. McKenna’s latest book, The Changing of the Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader, may be the most comprehensive text on law firm succession ever written, covering every priority from choosing a nominating committee to defining leadership criteria."

"It's worth highlighting some points that McKenna makes in his thorough and informative guidebook. And that's really what it is; a succession bible. He really covers all the bases from selecting a nominating committee with the right composition and setting selection criteria for the next leader, to developing and implementing a transition and integration plan to usher out the former chair or managing partner gracefully and usher in the new one.  And, he offers guidance on all of the many steps in between."

"The biggest value of The Changing of the Guard is the way it helps show how best to pass the leadership baton. To use another metaphor, it serves as a beacon to navigating through the rocky waters of succession planning."

Stephen T. Taylor - Senior Editor of Counsel, The Legal Practice Management Report (Vol 34. No.6. June 2015)


  • Introduction: The leadership succession process
  • Appendix A: When a firm leader suddenly departs

Part One: Making ready

  • Chapter 1: Choosing a nominating committee
  • Chapter 2: Developing your timeline
  • Chapter 3: Identifying the challenges your next leader will face
  • Appendix B: When term limits might be considered
  • Chapter 4: Develop/refine the job description
  • Chapter 5: Identify your selection criteria
  • Chapter 6: Identifying specific performance requirements
  • Chapter 7: Develop a formal written application form and process
  • Appendix C: When you understand what it takes to be a firm leader

Part Three: Calling for nominations

  • Chapter 8: Invite your partners to nominate candidates
  • Chapter 9: Host candidate town hall meet and greets
  • Chapter 10: Invite confidential input
  • Chapter 11: Design and structure a formal interview process for candidates
  • Chapter 12: Analyzing a candidate’s strengths
  • Appendix D: When firm leaders over-use their strengths

Part Four: Making the decision

  • Chapter 13: Reporting on results of interviews and confidential commentary
  • Chapter 14: After selecting your new firm leader
  • Appendix E: When you select co-managing partners

Part Five: Managing the role of the outgoing leader

  • Chapter 15: Creating a transition/integration plan
  • Appendix F: When firm leaders transition
  • Appendix G: When a firm leader has to let go

Part Six: Talking with Firm Leaders

Patrick J McKenna




About the author:

Patrick J. McKenna is an internationally recognized author, lecturer, strategist, and seasoned advisor to the leaders of premier professional service firms, and he has also had the honour of working with at least one of the largest firms in over a dozen different countries.

Patrick is the author of numerous books, most notably his international business bestseller, First Among Equals (currently in its sixth printing and translated into nine languages). His consulting expertise was acknowledged in 2008, when he was identified through independent research compiled and published by Lawdragon as “one of the most trusted names in legal consulting”, and his three decades of experience led to his being the subject of a Harvard Law School Case Study entitled ‘Innovations In Legal Consulting’ (2011). One example of that innovation was his launching the first instructional program designed to specifically address the issues that new firm leaders of larger firms face in their first 100 days – which has thus far graduated over 70 new leaders many from AmLaw 100 and 200-sized law firms, as well as from notable accounting and consulting firms.

He is the only expert in professional service firms admitted to the Association of Corporate Executive Coaches, the #1 US group for senior level CEO coaches; and was acknowledged in 2014 by The American Lawyer magazine as ‘a long time succession consultant and coach to new firm leaders’.


£283 (£9.50 p&p)