Succession planning, it’s good practice

Results of year-long Law Society campaign

Last summer the Law Society launched a year-long campaign, called Succession ­planning, it’s good practice, to encourage sole practitioners to take the critical step of arranging for a winding up caretaker.

Law Society data indicates few sole practitioners have made provisions for the disposition of their practices, yet succession planning is crucial for them, in particular. Unlike lawyers who are part of a group practice, sole practitioners cannot typically rely on someone else from within the firm to take care of their clients. The Law Society encourages them to select another lawyer – called a winding up caretaker – in the event that circumstances, such as a sudden illness, prevent them from being able to look after their practices themselves. If they have not done so, it is likely that the Custodianships department would need to step in to ensure clients’ interests are protected.

 Screen shot of webinar  

Five hundred lawyers participated in the Law Society’s live webinar on succession planning, which is still available for viewing and CPD credit.

 
   

The campaign was aimed at sole ­practitioners age 50 and older. A large percentage of BC’s lawyers are shifting to an older demographic. In fact, 69 per cent of sole practitioners in 2011 were age 50 or older.

Since 2006, trust reports have required lawyers to indicate whether they have ­designated a winding up caretaker in the event of death or disability. The ­percentage of sole practitioners over 50 who have indicated a winding up caretaker on their trust reports has remained static with a median of 13 per cent. In 2011, as a result of the campaign, that number jumped by four per cent to 17 per cent. In addition, the number of lawyers taking advantage of the sample documents and tools on the Law Society’s website to make their own ­succession plans has more than doubled.

Succession planning, it’s good practice culminated in a live webinar featuring on-camera discussion with Sherelle Goodwin, Manager of Custodianships and Bruce Thompson, a sole practitioner, with Communications Officer Dana Bales as the moderator. Five hundred lawyers ­registered for that webinar, and almost 200 people have watched the re-broadcast, which is still available for viewing on the Law Society’s YouTube channel. Free Continuing Professional Development credit is available for lawyers who view the video before December 31, 2012; follow the instructions on the Law Society website.

There are many good reasons for ­lawyers to make their own succession plans:

  • planning lets the lawyer choose who will be the winding up caretaker, what details that lawyer will handle and on what financial terms;
  • planning gives the clients certainty; and
  • planning makes it easier for the lawyer’s loved ones during an unexpected urgency, which may already be a difficult time for them.

In addition, it means the Law Society does not need to step in with a custodian, which saves everyone time and money. Thus, while the campaign is over, the Society still encourages sole practitioners to voluntarily plan for their practices in the event of the unanticipated.

Resources

Go to the Law Society website (Lawyers > Practice Support and Resources > Succession planning) for the following resources:

  • Webinar – Participants reported an increase of their knowledge about succession planning of six times their pre-webinar level. Available and eligible for CPD credit.
  • Website tools – Sample documents and information designed to help lawyers create their own succession plans.

The Law Society is available to help. Lawyers with questions should contact custodianship@lsbc.org.