September 2018 • Volume 106 • Number 9 • Page 8
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The first step toward a successful transition plan starts with deciding what you want for your future.
In the next five years, attorneys from the baby-boom generation will be transitioning from their current careers to either retirement or other business opportunities. Those who face these transitions without a succession plan in place will be making a major mistake.
If you are an attorney considering a transition, the first step is to decide what you want to do with the remainder of your career and life. Ask yourself, "What do you want? What is true? And what will you do about it?" To implement a successful transition, attorneys will need to consider these questions with a clear head and an open mind. They must take an honest look at their current situation and decide, in light of the facts, what they can achieve.
The process of preparing and implementing a succession plan for a law practice is a difficult task. In my own life, I am transitioning from the private practice of law into a judicial career. It was important to me to identify a leader within the office who would be entrepreneurial and take on the duties of running a business. I've spent years planning for this transition.
The challenges of transition planning
While a law practice has to be conducted in a professional and ethical manner according to the rules of professional conduct, the day-to-day practice of law usually does not allow for a well-organized and financially documented transition. This is especially true if you are a solo practitioner or a small law firm. If you are a solo practitioner, it will be important to identify someone outside of your practice who may be interested in taking over your business and is willing to work with you to develop a transition or succession plan. Be sure to include financing structures that allow younger attorneys to feasibly afford the purchase of your practice.
This year, I created the ISBA Special Committee on Health and Wellness. This committee will look at many issues, among them the financial well-being of our members-specifically regarding succession and transition planning.
The committee will consist of estate and financial planning attorneys, members of ISBA section councils, and other relevant professionals. It will be the committee's task to outline the rules regarding the sale of a law practice and the implementation of a succession plan. I also have asked the committee to design a planning template that will walk a retiring lawyer through the process of determining the value of his or her practice.
Goal setting is the most important step when planning for the future. Focus on practical goals. Reject goals that are impractical. Not every good option may be worth pursuing. Prioritize.
Oftentimes, people set too many goals and achieve few or none of them, or they struggle with where to start. Begin thinking of all the possibilities for your future and don't worry about whether you can achieve them. As you consider goals and test them, keep a few and set the others aside.
The fact that you are moving forward is, itself, an accomplishment. And the process will help you determine what you truly want for your future.