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Tips for Your Law Firm Succession Planning

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

It's just wrong to let someone else make your estate plan without you, so why would you let anybody plan law firm succession without you?

Seriously, getting old is hard enough without people waiting around for you to get out or die. They don't call lawyers sharks for nothing.

Make your own plan to get out of practice because if you don't, somebody else might do it for you. Or, if you are part of the group circling aging colleagues, show them that famous professional courtesy.

Who's Got the Will?

It's actually kind of strange that so many lawyers advise people to make plans for the future but don't make their own. The American Bar Association, for example, issued a report that includes a guide about how to write out older lawyers from their law firms.

It says, "senior lawyers can bring much to the table," but at the same time they have "an increasing risk for declining physical and mental capacity." So, the ABA recommends, law firms should "create transition programs to respectfully aid retiring professionals plan for their next chapter."

Thank you very much, but I'd like to write my own final chapter. (Does anybody else smell blood in the water right now?)

Jill Switzer, writing for Above the Law, knows what's going on. She said no lawyer wants to be treated as having a "sell by date."

Plan an Exit Strategy

So everybody expires eventually. But rather than wait for someone to stamp you, "return to sender," work out an exit strategy.

It doesn't mean you're are taking your clients -- even though that's what your "succession planners" really want. But you should definitely be part of the transition.

Choose your own successor, take an inventory, negotiate some terms, and make your own plan. It's a business, so treat it like you would a business client.

"Of course, every business, like every client, is different," wrote FindLaw's Casey Sullivan. "When it comes to succession planning, you'll need to have a variety of strategies at your disposal."

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