I recently worked with two elder solo attorneys in excellent health. They wanted to work 2-3 more years at almost a full-time pace. However, they were old enough and wise enough to know that a sudden health issue could derail all of that if they didn’t make a plan soon. I’ve written before about the risks of dying at your desk. Suffice it to say that if that occurs, you leave a mess for clients, staff, and especially grieving spouses and children. Further, selling a practice is way more difficult without the owner around. And even if it can be done, it is usually at fire sale terms. Read More
For years, selling a law practice was prohibited because ethics regulators believed clients, files, and a firm’s goodwill were not something that could be sold. Regulators feared that clients would be treated like merchandise. Other ethics worries included the possibility of sharing fees with a non-lawyer (spouse of a deceased lawyer) and the ban on payments to anyone for recommending the lawyer’s services. Read More
Lawyers are typically not a reflective lot. We rarely spend time taking a step back to ask, “What am I trying to accomplish here?” Instead, most lawyers just “shoot and then ask questions.” This dynamic is present at the time of retirement when determining an exit strategy. And even when the timing of the exit is carefully thought out, the goals are often not. Read More
Whether a lawyer works in a firm or as a solo, he or she does not close up shop one day and ride off into the retirement sunset the next. Many lawyers gradually wind down their practices—over months or years—and transition to part-time before retiring completely. Historically, law firms use the “of counsel” designation for lawyers nearing retirement. Read More
Categories: Attorney Retirement
If you’re a solo or small firm owner thinking of selling your law firm, for certain practice areas, transitioning repeat clients to the buyer is key. Indeed, the primary reason your firm has value and has a willing buyer are those client relationships that took years to build. Transitioning clients successfully requires managing and finessing human relationships, a task that—even with the best of intentions—is never easy. Everyone has the same goals, including quality, predictability, and trust. Will your successor meet your existing clients’ goals? Read More
I’ve got some good news and some bad news. First, the good news. Men in the United States aged 65 can expect to live 18.2 more years on average. Women aged 65 years can expect to live around 20.8 more years on average. The bad news is that some lawyers read that and somehow think that they can practice that long. Read More
It should come as no surprise that the question most prospective clients ask me is, “What is my law firm worth?” My response is always as follows: Imagine it’s Friday afternoon and you ride off into the retirement sunset never to return to the practice of law. Then, on Monday morning, the phone rings at your old desk, and your successor answers. Read More
When purchasing a law practice, buyers seek revenue they ordinarily could not obtain on their own. For example, buyers hope that, with the proper introductions, the relationships that a seller has with repeat clients can be successfully transitioned to the buyer. The same can be said for a seller’s referral network, be they former clients or other professionals. Read More
I always tell clients that my appraisal provides an excellent starting point for negotiating the price of a law firm with an insider, but that it is unlikely that it will be the final word. While it may sound like a cliché, for most small firm insider deals, parties ultimately agree on a price that seems “fair.” Read More

Law practices are often valued in divorce proceedings. As such, lawyers frequently assume that it should be relatively easy to apply similar valuation principles when trying to sell a practice. Nothing can be further from the truth.

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