Succession planning is a topic that you discuss with business owner clients. But have you thought about succession planning for your own law practice?
The cobbler’s children never seem to get those shoes, do they?
Consider your business owner clients. You don’t think twice about discussing what their wishes are when it comes to doing their estate planning. Do they have family members who are active in their businesses? Do they want to sell their business to a long-standing employee? Or do they plan to sell their business, reap the rewards of years of hard work and enjoy a leisure-filled retirement? They rely on you for help mapping out a plan, starting with the big picture when they are younger and digging into the details as the years go on.
Depending on your age, health and finances (let’s not ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room), you have options. You could conceivably continue to practice well into your 70s or 80s. Look at the Supreme Court bench for inspiration! Lawyers who love what they do often chose to work long past the time when other people have retired. After all, it’s your profession, your practice and a large part of your identity.
If you are just starting out, this is a concept to put in the back of your mind. Building your practice to succeed today, utilizing all of the available tools to grow and sustain your practice, will give you more options in the future.
If “someday” is closer in your future, consider these questions:
What would you like your future to look like? For some lawyers, that means less time practicing law and more time in leadership positions: speaking, writing and expanding involvement in the profession or with community groups.
Is your practice making the most out of technology? Are systems in place for document management, practice management, marketing and accounting functions to be as efficient as possible? This will make a big difference in freeing up your time for other activities. It will also make a difference in making it attractive for another attorney to merge their practice in with yours or come in as a partner and eventually take over for you.
Is there someone in your office who you would like to pass the baton of ownership to? The young lawyer who started with you years ago is now an experienced practitioner. Will they chose to stay with you if there is a discussion of partnership, or will they leave and become your toughest competitor?
You have built a law practice centered on helping others plan for the future. That doesn’t mean it is easy to do this for yourself. But like any other difficult topic, the earlier you start exploring the issues, the better decisions you will be able to make for yourself, your family, your clients and your practice.