Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Conning the IADC Newsletters

Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Conning the IADC Newsletters

Article excerpt

International Association of Defense Counsel committee members prepare newsletters on a monthly basis that contain a wide range of practical and helpful material. This section of the Defense Counsel Journal is dedicated to highlighting interesting topics covered in recent newsletters so that other readers can benefit from committee specific articles.

SUCCESSION PLANS! BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED

By Michael D. Crim

Michael D. Crim is a director at the law firm of McNeer, Highland, McMunn and Varner, LC. in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Mr. Crim practices primarily in the areas of professional liability, personal injury litigation, toxic/hazardous substances litigation, and mineral law and litigation.

Michael D. Crim offers insight on important steps attorneys should take to protect and preserve the best interests of clients, family and colleagues when one 's legal career comes to a close: particularly when the end comes unexpectedly and without warning. This article should be of interest to all members of the defense bar.

"Old age takes away from us what we have inherited and gives us what we have earned."

- Gerald Brenan

I have now spent 14 years in this profession of law, a profession I deeply love and respect. It is my sincere hope and desire that I continue in good health and that I maintain my legal abilities well into the future. I have always seen myself as a person who would practice law into my later years and would be happy retiring from this earth, and the profession, if the retirement came while making an impassioned closing argument. Rarely, if ever, have I stopped to consider the implications that may flow from such a departure.

If most of you are like me, you rarely acknowledge your mortality or the fact that at some point in the future you will be forced to relinquish your grip on the profession that you have made your life's work. Whether you like it or not, one day each of us will be forced to give up our voluminous case loads, put behind our grueling schedules and confront the fact that the practice of law will continue even without our invaluable contributions.

Of course, our exiting the practice does not bring to a close the obligations that we owe to our partners, our firms and our clients. Stop and ask yourself, if your law practice came to a sudden and unexpected end today, what would be the impact on clients, family and colleagues? Who would take over the handling of your cases? Who would be the individual responsible for closing down your practice? Would someone be able to locate your client/contact lists? Would someone be able to locate your calendar? Would someone be able to locate a list of all your files? We, as responsible lawyers, need to have a succession plan1 in place to respond to these inquiries and more.

These are questions no attorney, including myself, wants to confront or take the time to deal with at any stage of our career, particularly in our most productive years. Who wants to have to consider and deal with issues regarding the end of one's career while we are still at our peak level of performance? We have the rest of our career, and our life, to deal with such mundane and non-billable issues, don't we?

In a perfect world, the necessity of a well-thought succession plan may not be as significant or pose any potential liability. However, in a perfect world, an attorney will spend many years building a law practice, retire, and thereafter, remain available to his colleagues and prepared to answer any and all questions that may arise as a result of his former representation. Unfortunately, die "perfect world" scenario is not where the majority of problems arise and is not what this article addresses. Outside of the perfect world, where Murphy's Law rules, significant liability can result from a failure to have a carefully planned succession plan. This becomes even more likely when the lawyer's exodus is brought about by sudden death or other debilitating condition. …

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