By Brooke Ottesen, Associate, The Brocker Law Firm, P.A.
planning is a hot topic in North Carolina although we are certainly not the
first state to tackle these issues. Keith Kapp, President of the North Carolina
State Bar, called for the Bar to re-examine and improve our approach to both
the beginning and the end of law practice.
Despite this call to arms and recognition of a need for change in the
legal profession, Warren Savage, a claims attorney with Lawyers Mutual, finds
it surprising "how many lawyers avoid preparing for the inevitable end of their
careers until after that end arrives at an unexpected time.” He says, "While legal careers will almost
certainly end because of a career change, retirement, health, or death, a
surprising number of lawyers reach that end without having considered and
prepared for the recurring issues common to winding down a law practice.”
Therefore, exit planning appears to be both
a big challenge for attorneys, as well as, an opportunity for improvement in
the legal profession.
Exit strategies can encompass any one
of a number of different scenarios:
(1) Winding down and closing the doors of
(2) Selling or merging the law practice;
(3) Internally transitioning the law
practice to another attorney in the firm.
Each strategy comes with its own challenges, and it takes time and
commitment to successfully implement. Regardless
of the road you choose, the key is to start early in developing your plan so
your clients, your employees, and your family are protected.
in July and over the next few months, we will post a series of articles related
to this issue. Each subsequent article
will tackle a specific aspect of exit planning and succession such as practical
checklists for winding down a practice, the ethics of turning out the lights,
the sale or merger of a law practice, and expecting the unexpected. In the meantime, a great resource for
attorneys interested in creating such a strategy is Turning out the Lights: Planning for Closing Your Law Practice, a
publication of the North Carolina Bar Association. The Association published
the procedural guidebook to help lawyers plan for untimely events that might
necessitate the closing of a law practice. The publication is $27 and you can
order online at http://www.ncbar.org/cle/bookstore/tol12.
Senior Lawyer Division of the NCBA Newsletter. "What to Expect When You’re
Expecting to Retire,” Section Vol. 21, No. 2 (March 2013).