is willing to step in and continue the practice or close it out. You may see more on
this recommendation addressed on your
annual dues statement in the future. If
you will be
required to make
an election and
identify your succession lawyer on
the annual statement.
One of the
recommendations is that a
lawyer should not
retain client-pro-vided documents
in their files and
as wills and other
documents. I also
noted this issue in
last month’s message regarding file retention.
Another recommendation is the publication of a handbook available to all lawyers
on succession planning. One is now being
prepared for your review and use; it should
be available in the near future.
Finally, a rule change that is under
consideration has to do with IOLTA/trust
accounts and some of the problems a conservator has in getting cooperation from
banks in honoring conservatorship court
orders. The court order allows the conservator to access and manage the accounts.
More information on this important
topic, including a summary and complete
report from the Succession Planning Task
Force Report, is here: www.azbar.org/
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE by Richard Platt
All lawyers should have a plan as to what will happen to their practice when they retire, or when for a variety of other life-changing events they cannot continue to practice law. So, what are you
going to do with your practice? Is a partner going to continue it? Have
you talked with another lawyer who is willing
to step in and finish your practice if something
should happen to you?
This question is not only for the aging
Baby Boomers in our profession; it is for all of
us to consider.
You may ask what happens now with a
lawyer’s practice when something happens,
such as abandonment, disbarment or a sudden incapacity. The quick answer is the State
Bar of Arizona has the authority to become a
conservator. In that role, the Bar is granted
the power to step into the shoes of the incapacitated lawyer, seizing the lawyer’s files.
The conservator locates ongoing files and
determines what action is required, including
returning a closed file to a client. The Bar may
also find another lawyer who is interested in
taking over cases left behind, or the Bar will
close them out. The State Bar also will take an
accounting of a lawyer’s financial accounts,
returning funds to clients and closing out the
Right now, the Bar has more than 1,600 boxes of files in storage from
lawyers who left open practices behind. The Bar rents approximately
2,300 square feet of space to house those files. This is, by no means,
In November 2013, the Board of Governors appointed a
Succession Planning Task Force to make recommendations for
dealing with a law practice if the lawyer dies, retires, becomes
incapacitated or otherwise abandons the practice and has failed
to implement a succession plan.
On May 13, 2014, an article on succession planning was in
the eLegal online newsletter. It outlined the challenges of such
planning, the impact on the State Bar of Arizona, and recommendations made to the Board of Governors.
Some of the six recommendations include a rule change to
the Arizona Supreme Court that would obligate all lawyers to
plan for the succession of their law practice. Planning would,
at a minimum, require a lawyer to identify another lawyer who AZ AT
We all have a
responsibility to the
courts, our clients
and the public to
have an effective
Are You Ready to Quit?