Whether you’re considering closing your own law firm or selling it, it is critical to consider the ethical implications of ending your legal career. A comprehensive succession plan is key to avoiding ethical concerns and potential issues like missed deadlines and incomplete tasks, that could potentially snowball into malpractice claims.
A written succession plan not only helps you to safeguard your interests but also provides a safety net for the clients you’ve diligently served over the years. The ethical duty to protect client interests doesn’t end with your retirement; it extends to ensuring that your clients’ cases are in capable hands even if you’re no longer able to represent them. Such a plan serves as a form of risk management, reducing the stress on clients, colleagues, and loved ones in the event of an unexpected passing.
A succession plan should include essential information about your practice, including an up-to-date client list with contact information, case statuses, and strategies. The plan should also outline procedures for transferring files, managing pending court dates, securing extensions of time, and handling ongoing legal proceedings. This information is invaluable for a successor attorney who steps in to take over your practice.
If you decide to close your practice, you should contact your malpractice insurance carrier, as they often offer guidance and checklists for proper practice closure. From an ethical standpoint, it is also essential to communicate with clients well in advance about the closure, advise them on potential need for new counsel, and assist them in navigating pending legal matters. If you decide to sell your practice, you should consult Md. R. Att’y 19-301.17, to ensure that the transaction is completed in accordance with the ethical guidelines.
Succession planning is an important aspect of every Maryland lawyer’s career, especially when they are contemplating retirement. You can learn more about the ethics of succession planning at Risk Management: Malpractice Exposure for the Attorney and Impact on Clients, with an Overview of Ethical Issues to be Considered in Succession Planning presented on November 13, 2023 at 10:15 am as part of the Succession Planning Workshop held on MSBA’s Legal Excellence Week. The panel discussion, featuring Lydia Lawless, Esq., Kramon & Graham and Al Frederick, Esq., Eccleston & Wolf, will offer invaluable insight on how to navigate the complexities of succession planning ethically.
MSBA members can also download the Guide to Closing a Law Firm, one of the associations many free member benefits.