Lee Thuston Featured in the Daily Report on How Burr & Forman Prepared for Succession Planning
Firm Chairman Lee Thuston was recently profiled in the Daily Report, discussing his approach to developing succession planning strategies, including that of his move as the Am Law 200 firm's long-time managing partner to chairman.
When it came time to appoint the firm's next leader, Thuston says that he and the Executive Committee tackled the process in the same manner with which they have led the firm every day: "Our approach always has been to be democratic in our decisions, to strive for consensus and to be transparent. Those values have served us well in running the firm, and they worked in planning for the leadership transition," he says.
As managing a large firm in a competitive industry is quite challenging, Burr & Forman decided that instead of replacing Thuston, who had served as managing partner by then for more than 13 years, the firm would create an extended leadership structure.
Thuston was aware that succession doesn't always go smoothly at law firms, as it can often take years to recover from a leadership transition. "I was determined that would not be us," he says. As a result, at monthly partner meetings, succession became a regular topic and the themes of maintaining the firm's values and culture were deemed as the most important qualities for the candidates to possess.
The process was a long one but resulted in Ed Christian and Erich Durlacher being unanimously voted to transition into CEO and president respectively. "We had a 100 percent vote for Ed and Erich because we had already worked out all the issues," Thuston says.
To date, Thuston and the manufacturing team at Burr & Forman have increased capital investment by $20 billion and created more than 25,000 jobs through attracting major economic development projects to locate and expand in the South. Thuston now serves in the new, strategic position of chairman for Burr & Forman. Between manufacturing client plans and scheduling client visits across the Southeast, he is keeping very busy. Though he has moved 80 percent of his billing to other lawyers in the last five years, Thuston has no plans to retire. He is merely covering his bases and ensuring the work will be in good hands when that day comes.
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