Your Coverage and Succession Plan
The annual Trust Report form submitted by you to LSBC asks whether you have designated a person or firm to act as the Winding Up Caretaker in the event of your death or disability and to provide that lawyer’s name. Keep in mind that winding up a practice is distinct from having someone oversee a practice for maintenance purposes. Consider whether you could ask your Winding Up Caretaker if he or she would be willing and able to provide coverage for your practice in the event of your absence.
Think about developing a relationship with another lawyer with expertise in the area of law you practise, to provide coverage for each other when needed.
It is critical to understand that when you are absent from work, suffer from long-term illness, or decide to retire, it is a matter that goes beyond your personal life. It affects your practice and more importantly, your clients. In light of this, you should plan for how your business will operate in the event of both a short-term and long-term absence, as opposed to retiring or winding up your practice.
Some things to consider respecting coverage include:
- Arrange for a lawyer, including one with whom you may have a space sharing arrangement, to act as a contact in your absence. (Space sharing is dealt with in the Conflicts module.)
- Ensure that your voicemail and email auto-reply are updated and provide information such as:
- who to contact if the matter is urgent;
- when you plan to return;
- whether you will be checking and responding to messages while away (don't say you will if you won't!), etc.
- If you arrange for a lawyer to oversee your practice during your absence, ensure that he or she is able to contact you.
- You may wish to establish a power of attorney with financial institutions to enable the successor to access general accounts as well as trust accounts, and have the authority to continue the practice.
- If you use your computers for personal communications or documents, develop a system such as a different password protected “logon” ID, to safeguard your personal information.1
- Contact opposing counsel on files to let them know you will be away, and who they can contact in your absence. This is a matter of professional courtesy and ensures that there is no gap in your client’s representation. It may also minimize the likelihood that you receive applications, or other time sensitive documents from opposing counsel while you are away.
1 See the article "When Personal Information Is On a Work Computer" in the September-October 2005 Benchers' Bulletin.