Succession Planning for Your Law Practice

Like most people, many attorneys fail to plan for their own retirement, disability, or death.  Developing an effective succession plan can be time consuming, but doing so will greatly benefit your family, clients, employees, and professional reputation.

There are two primary types of succession plans:

  • Intrafirm succession, which requires finding a successor who may be an existing associate or partner, or an outside attorney brought into the firm to take over the practice; and
  • Sale of practice to a third party.

Either type of plan should be in writing, tailored to the specific practice, and act as a progressive guide to managing transition issues.

The events that trigger succession of a law practice vary, which in turn affects the type of plan needed. For example, an attorney’s unexpected disability, disappearance, or death requires an emergency plan to be in place so that another attorney can come in immediately to manage the practice. By contrast, an attorney’s retirement plan should be developed years before retirement, and often includes the sale of the practice to an associate or another attorney, or simply a winding down of the practice by transitioning clients to other attorneys.

For a complete guide to the critical succession planning every attorney should do, go to CEB’s book Business Succession Planning: Strategies for California Estate Planners and Business Attorneys, chap 17.

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