Allen & Overy, one of the UK’s top law firms, has become the latest major British legal company to remove the requirement for partners to step down on reaching the age of 60. Allen & Overy’s removal of the default retirement age follows the example set by Ashurst, Hogan Lovells and Linklaters in what is becoming an increasing trend in the British legal establishment with a number of other firms expected to make similar announcements in the near future.
The findings were revealed following research by Legal Week in the wake of legislation which came into effect in October 2011, preventing compulsory retirement before the age of 65. The research also revealed that partners over the age of 60 were, on the whole, underrepresented at the biggest law firms.
This significant change in employment practice may have considerable impact on legal jobs in the future. Concerns have been expressed that later retirements could lead to fewer opportunities for promotion to partner and hinder the career development of law firm associates. A reverse knock-on effect may mean fewer opportunities at the biggest companies for people starting on their legal career.
However, the companies concerned are major international institutions and initial signs were that there would still be considerable flexibility that would not adversely affect career prospects. Wim Dejonghe, Allen & Overy’s managing partner implied that there would remain plenty of opportunity with the firm: ‘We are a global institution and there are a great variety of ways in which the careers of our partners are played out. To have an inflexible mandatory retirement age globally that forces partners to leave the firm at a particular point in time no longer made any sense.’