Most, if not all of us, have had the unpleasant experience of moving and cursing the volume of stuff we possess. If we apply this dread over excess to our professional lives, we can take steps well before major transitions such as moving or exiting our practice, easier. Here are some suggestions to prepare your firm for nimble transitions.
Start from the end and work backwards
Envision how you want your transition to be. Do you want to have retained a storage room full of client property and files? Create file closing procedures with major transitions in mind. Closing procedures should include returning all original client property back to the client, be it a minute book, a will or a piece of a sidewalk. Take copies and photographs of what you need to satisfy your regulator’s record retention requirements. You should also scan all pertinent documents, as well as set (and adhere to) a schedule for the destruction of the file. By taking such measures, when it comes time to transition, you should only have to worry about your open files.
Organize everything digitally
I recently spoke with a young doctor who had been approached by an older doctor about taking over his practice. The older doctor's office had piles and piles of handwritten charts, none of which had been scanned and organized digitally. The younger doctor wanted nothing to do with that mess. With the cost of physical space so high in comparison with dirt-cheap digital space, younger generations will want to minimize the imposition on their physical space. Make it easy for them to take on your files by scanning and systematically organizing everything digitally.
Maintain contact with former clients
Set aside time each year to keep in touch with former clients (end of year would be an ideal time). This is especially important if you have retained any of their property. In fact, if you still have any of their property, you have an excuse to contact them to remind them of that fact. Use this as an opportunity to explore additional legal services and to simply stay in their minds. By maintaining contact, you will know where to find former clients and vice versa when it comes time to transition.
Running list of transferred files
Find out if your local law association has a running list of lawyers that have had files transferred to them from lawyers that have closed their practices. If not, encourage them to create one to make it easier for all lawyers to track down such files. This is of great benefit to any local bar as it saves a tremendous amount of time in hunting for files.
Transition planning is more than creating powers of attorney and a will. It starts with thinking about various transitions in life and doing that thinking early on and regularly. Do not wait until you are a few years from closing your practice to plan your transition. Start young and start now.