Succession is perhaps the most significant long-term challenge facing soon-to-be-retired, baby-boomer solo practitioners and small law firm owners. This is understandable, as a variety of psychological and emotional factors stack the odds against you laying the foundation for a smooth transition. They include:
It should come as no surprise then that, for many solos and small firm owners, the default option for succession is “do nothing.” Sound familiar? By doing nothing, however, you are choosing to live in a state of denial. And I hate to break it to you, but no one—not even the most successful lawyer—can practice law forever. By avoiding succession issues now, you face spending your last years of practice wrestling with a level of uncertainty.
When you inevitably suffer a serious illness or pass away, your firm will fall into a crisis mode. This often leads to a costly, chaotic, and disruptive process for clients, colleagues and close family members (oftentimes, the spouse). Your past inaction now forces others to assume unfamiliar responsibilities. It compels them to make decisions they may not be qualified to make, usually under emotionally charged circumstances.
The consequences of your delay and denial are, at best, unpredictable and, at worst, disastrous.
Succession planning may not be the most enjoyable or glamorous task to undertake as a law firm owner. But, everyone benefits by your taking steps now. Family, clients, and colleagues avoid confusion and turmoil. And you secure peace of mind knowing your career will end on a high note.
President John F. Kennedy once remarked, “The time to put on a new roof is when the sun is shining.” Likewise, the time to start succession planning is when you aren’t in a hurry to get it done. So, what are you waiting for? Face the fears and related factors that have kept you from moving forward and start planning today.