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Compulsory retirement age for law firms upheld by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled that law firms can enforce compulsory retirement policies if there are justifiable business aims.

The judgment, in the high-profile Seldon vs Clarkson Wright & Jakes (CWJ) age discrimination case, reinforces the right of law firms to manage their partnerships via compulsory retirement policies, allowing them to end partners’ contracts when they reach 65.

The Justices decided that this is an acceptable use of age discrimination after CWJ successfully argued that their business aims justified the policy. They reasoned that law firm structure made it necessary for senior lawyers to make way for associates and junior partners to advance in the firm.

Laurie Adams of Outside Insight says that the legal sector lags far behind the accountancy industry when it comes to planning for retirement.

“This ruling reinforces the reality that the career end will come for many partners by 65, perhaps when they still feel ready and able to keep on working, whether in the legal sector, in other roles or as a non-executive director.”

“Planning for retirement is an essential strategy for both law firms and individuals and should start 3-5 years in advance.

“Individuals need to robustly analyse their skills and how they can use them outside of law, but is an exercise few partners ever do.”

Outside Insight offers specialised retirement planning coaching services for senior lawyers.

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