Planning Ahead

Because life is unpredictable, it’s important to have a succession plan in case events like disability or death prevent you from continuing to practice law. Planning ahead will not only protect your clients and your family, but provide immediate guidance to your staff in a time of uncertainty.

While lawyers are not required to have a succession plan, they are strongly encouraged to do so. ABA Formal Opinion 92-369 states that in order to fulfill the obligation to protect client files and property, a lawyer should prepare a future plan for the maintenance and protection of client interests in the event of the lawyer's death.  

Retiring From Practice

Succession planning is not just limited to unexpected events. When it comes to retirement, a succession plan serves as the blueprint for transitioning the future of your practice, addresses any financial concerns, and ensures that your clients will be protected. 

To make succession planning as easy as possible, we’ve written a handbook that outlines the steps, discusses the issues, answers questions, and includes checklists and forms.

The Planning Ahead Handbook 

Chapter 1 discusses why it is important to plan ahead. Chapter 2 provides answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). The remainder of the handbook contains checklists and forms necessary to put together your succession plan. 

Many of the forms are in Word format with fill-in-the blank fields. They can be downloaded and saved for subsequent modification by the user. 

Succession Planning Forms

Form Description
4.1 Agreement to Close Law Practice – Full Form
4.2 Consent to Close Law Office – Short Form
4.3 Notice of Designated Assisting Attorney
4.4 Will Provisions
4.5 Engagement Letter and Fee Agreement (Follow-up Letter to Initial)
4.6 Letter Advising That Lawyer is Unable to Continue in Practice
4.7 Letter that Lawyer is Closing His/Her Office
4.8 Guidelines for Retention of Client Files (PDF)
4.9 Letter from Firm Offering to Continue Representation
4.10 Acknowledgement of Receipt of File
4.11 Authorization for Transfer of Client File
4.12 Request for File
4.13 Office Closure File Tracking Chart
4.14 Law Office List of Contacts (PDF)
4.15 Motion for Access to IOLTA (or Specific Trust) Account

De Novo (October 2011)

Succession planning for young attorneys

Washington State Bar News (February 2010)

Planning ahead for your family and clients

Oregon State Bar Bulletin (July 2005)

Managing your practice

Checklists for Closing a Practice