What happens to your practice if you experience an unforeseen emergency? What if you are in an accident or have a heart attack? What if you die suddenly and unexpectedly?
These are all real scenarios that practicing attorneys can experience. It is especially critical for solo practitioners, but equally as important for attorneys in firms to have plans in place to deal with the unexpected.
What should you do?
- Think about another attorney to be contacted by the person who would be notified in the event you experience an emergency situation. The person to be notified is likely your spouse, significant other, another family member or a close friend.
- The other attorney would not “take over” your client files, but only determine upcoming court dates, statutes and appointments, and notify clients, courts and opposing attorneys, as needed.
- The agreement should be in writing. You may wish to execute a Power of Attorney for the designated attorney. See Succession Planning for Ohio Attorneys.
- You should introduce the other attorney to the person who will be contacted in the event of the emergency and go over the procedures to be followed.
- Upon the occurrence of the emergency event, the contact person would then notify the other attorney for whom you have arranged access to your office.
- At the office, the attorney would retrieve from the secure location – likely a locked, fireproof cabinet – the passwords to access your computer records for your docket and calendar, your client database and trust account and financial records and notify clients, courts and others, as needed.
It is critical for lawyers to have these plans in place. ABA Lawyer Demographics for 2016indicate that 34% of US lawyers are age 55 or older. Of the lawyers in private practice, 49% are solo practitioners, while another 20% practice in firms of 10 or less. Putting emergency succession plans in place can save considerable stress if an emergency situation occurs and protect your clients as well as your assets.
Click here to view the entire Malpractice Alert Nov/Dec 2016.