Closing a Practice
Watch "Exiting Your Practice", a spotlight CLE with information on exit options for your practice, inlcuding the valuation and sale of your practice.
The WSBA provides the checklists on the right as a convenience for members seeking guidance on the best way to close a practice when retiring or to assist a survivor of a deceased or disabled lawyer in closing a practice.
ABA Formal Opinion 92-369 states that to fulfill the obligation to protect client files and property, a lawyer , especially a solo practitioner, should prepare a future plan for the maintenance and protection of those client interests in the event of the lawyer's death. Such a plan should include at a minimum the designation of another lawyer who would have the authority to review client files and make determinations as to which files need immediate attention and who would notify the clients of the lawyer's death. A lawyer who assumes responsibility for the client files and property of a deceased lawyer must review the files carefully to determine which files need immediate attention. Because the reviewing lawyer does not represent the client, only as much of the file as is needed to identify the client and to make a determination as to which files need immediate attention should be reviewed. Reasonable efforts must be made to contact all clients to notify them of the death and to request instructions.
The first step in planning process is for the lawyer to find another lawyer willing and able to be the assisting lawyer in the event of death, disability, impairment or incapacity of the requesting lawyer. A written consent form should be signed authorizing the assisting lawyer to contact clients for instructions on transferring their files, authorization to obtain extensions of time in litigation and general authorization to do anything necessary to close the practice, such as winding down financial affairs, providing final accountings to clients, collecting fees and selling the practice.
Allowing access to the trust account is a serious matter. Careful consideration should be made of the person to handle the account. If you give some one control of the trust account, you as the lawyer remain responsible. If the assisting person misappropriates money, the lawyer or his estate may be held responsible.
Download Forms and Materials
[Note: These materials are based upon a booklet published by the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund entitled Planning Ahead: A Guide to Protecting Your Clients' Interests in the Event of Your Death or Disability, which has been edited for Washington lawyers.]
Contact LOMAP for guidance about the nuances and timing of these steps.
Speaker: Jessica McKeegan Jensen — Jessica Jensen Law PD, Olympia
Checklist for Closing Your Own Office
Checklist for Closing Another Attorney's Office
Checklist for Lawyers Planning to Protect Clients' Interests in the Event of the Lawyer's Death, Disability, Impairment, or Incapacity
The Lawyer's Guide to Buying, Selling, Merging, and Closing a Law
Financial Planning For You & Your Clients (What Every Lawyer Should Know About Insurance, Investments, Estate Planning & Taxes)
Planning for the Lawyers Retirement, Disability, or Death
See the ABA GP|Solo Magazine focus issue on buying or selling a law practice.
© 2013 Washington State Bar Association, all rights reserved.