A former president of the International Bar Association has called on firms to scrap mandatory retirement ages and make more of their older partners.

In an event on partner succession at the IBA conference in Boston, Fernando Peláez-Pier said the issue was a constant source of division in firms.

The mandatory retirement age has been scrapped by a number of City firms in recent years and debate has continued through the profession about whether - and when - partners can be told to leave the firm.

‘One of the biggest mistakes firms make is when partners reach retirement age they think of them as dead,’ said Peláez-Pier. ‘There is no effort to generate something from what they have - that generates friction between retiring partners and firms.’

The issue of mandatory retirement was a key talking point at the conference, with one panel member from Colombia emphasising the benefits of such a policy.

He said: ‘At my firm at the end of the year you turn 65 you are excluded from the firm, with no exceptions. It makes room for other partners and it forces the partners to think about turning over all their partnerships with clients and institutions. It also provide certainty and means people know they are not being moved out because they have failed.’

Guy Beringer QC, a founder of CKR, which advises professionals who want to become directors, said lawyers should be looking to develop their skills long before talk of their retirement.

‘Irrespective of whether you want a second career you will get a demonstrable set of skills and new contacts. In the US you get much greater movement in and out of firms. In England there is a more binary system of staying at your desk and not looking up until you have to come onto the difficult question [of retirement].’