One Way to Start Thinking About Succession Planning

Kathy Fortin
Oct 20 2016

The topic of succession planning for lawyers seems to be everywhere. Arthur and I have encountered various Bar Associations raising awareness on the subject of their graying members. Solo practitioners and small and medium-sized firm members have a more heightened awareness than ever before and are taking action, making plans for their firm’s succession. Baby boomers are clearly interested in controlling their destiny.

These developments are great news! Why shouldn’t law firms reap the benefit of a lasting legacy for their clients, younger lawyers and staff? And, why shouldn’t those entrepreneurial firm founders gain lasting benefits for their labors? But, as with all good things, there is a glitch. It is the timing.

Planning early makes a huge difference. Why is it so common that many firm founders wait until they are almost at the finish line of their marathon run, to decide they should do something to set the firm on a future course?  The problem is that the longer one procrastinates the greater the chance the best options and opportunities will not be available. The risk is that a firm can go asunder. We have seen this happen.

The endless demands on most small and mid-sized firm’s lawyers is understandable. There is no magic cure that will create the perfect time to plan for the future, but think about it this way. Set a goal in which you will begin to think about what you want. Lawyers are thinkers, so this part should be easy. Commit your thoughts to paper by addressing questions that may be nagging at you. How do I envision retirement? Winding down over time? Setting a date certain? How will I do it? What do I want for the firm? You will most likely find the questions are not that hard to answer. It may even be fun a fun exercise. Just put down your ideas. One critical piece of advice. Do not self-censor. Do not defeat your goals, without knowing the options.

Many of our consulting clients admit to having thought about their plans for years, but have done nothing They realized that writing it down made all the difference in elevating the priority to plan the firm’s future. Take that one step. Get started and see where it takes you. Planning early will maximize your chances for a smooth succession when the time is right for you.