If There’s a Will, There’s a Way: Comparing Succession Planning to Estate Planning

I was recently reading the business section of my local newspaper and came across an article on the importance of having a will. The focus of the article was on how to prevent people from delaying getting the task accomplished. The writer asked several financial planners for the best strategies they use to help their clients complete this task.

I frequently get on my soapbox to encourage senior solo and small law firm owners to create a succession plan. This message, at times, falls upon deaf ears. The thought then occurred to me that perhaps I could frame the importance of a succession plan in a similar manner that financial planners do for the importance of a will. The exercise was fruitful.

Succession Planning Is Akin to Estate Planning

The article I read had four distinct headings to help me with my task. Here’s how those headings apply to succession planning.

Remember Whom You Are Doing This For

Think seriously about who you are planning for:

  • Your clients? For those of you who became lawyers to help clients, how are you helping them if you have not planned for the day you can no longer practice and help them. Do you really want them to have to fend for themselves?
  • Your co-workers? Will they know what to do if you suddenly fall ill or pass?
  • Your family? Do you really want your grieving spouse or children picking up the pieces?

A law firm succession plan is for all of these people.

Visualize What Happens Without a Will

You’ll be leaving a mess! For who? See above.

Keep It Simple

Succession planning is not as complicated and time-consuming as you fear. Yes, I know you’d rather practice law, but planning for the future is no more complex than many of the administrative tasks you’ve been doing for years as a law firm owner. (And, hey, there are always people like me who can help you.)

Set a Timeline

If you don’t set a deadline, it’s not like there’s some deep dark secret about who will set it for you. Wouldn’t you rather control the timing?

Closing Thoughts

No one can practice law forever. Plan for the time when you can no longer practice. End your career on a high note.

In its simplest terms, we hired Roy to help plan our future. He listened to our concerns, analyzed our inputs after pertinent questioning on his part and then did an excellent job summarizing the issues our firm must meet to make forward progress. Ro…" Read the rest
– Owners, U.S. Virgin Islands, law firm

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