Lawyers could find their career paths blocked as partners retire later because of changes to tax relief on pension contributions, an accountancy firm has warned.

Of 95 law firms surveyed by Smith & Williamson, 53% said they expected a rise in the retirement age would affect opportunities for partner development, and therefore succession planning.

In recent years high-earners have faced cuts in the amount they can contribute to their pension, while laws against age discrimination have meant that few firms specify a retirement age in their partnership agreements.

At present anyone paying into a pension is entitled to tax relief on contributions of up to £40,000 a year. From April 2016 this will be gradually reduced to £10,000 for those earning over £150,000.

Mike Fosberry (pictured), director of financial services at Smith & Williamson, said: ‘We are increasingly seeing partners retiring later as they haven’t been in a position to be able to make adequate pension provision, which has been exacerbated by recent changes to pension contributions.

‘The danger firms have got is it is creating blockage at the top of the partnership, where they can’t promote the new partners as the older partners stay on.’

According to the accountancy firm, the delayed retirements are compromising the recruitment, promotion and development of other lawyers.

Fosberry said that in light of the changes it was important that firms support partners in making personal financial arrangements, as high-earners can no longer rely on pension contributions alone for a comfortable retirement.

He said that this education on other investment opportunities should be available for both young and older partners, adding: ‘It needs senior management to take control of this issue.’