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Legal Business Development: Succession Planning

Do you and your firm have a succession plan? Or maybe this sounds familiar: “I’ve been meaning to think about it, but it always gets pushed to the side by the everyday demands of the practice.”

I met a partner from a small firm that said nearly everyone in the firm was approaching retirement in the next nine years. When I asked what their succession plan looked like, his response was typical… “Quite frankly we haven’t given it a thought.” I followed up with… “Will you close the doors when the last partner retires?” He shrugged his shoulders indicating that he didn’t know.

What is so horrifying about this situation is… What is at stake if you don’t think about it before it is too late!

A life’s work just evaporates into thin-air, yes thin-air! Is that how you want to leave the profession that you dedicated your life to? I refuse to believe that is your intent. I think it is just a matter of no forethought. It’s the usual excuse that gets in the way of many things in our lives… “I’m too busy!” So, here’s what’s at stake…

Not being able to leave a legacy, because… you didn’t plan.

Not being able to do what you TRULY want to do, because … you didn’t plan.

Not being able to “cash out” because… you didn’t plan.

A Legacy? Think about the many law firms across the country big and small whose named partners are long gone… but they survived because of the stellar reputation of the founders and the firm culture they built. THAT doesn’t happen by accident… it takes vision and planning.

Think about it.

  1. Transition your client relationships to the firm’s next generation. Are you proud of your next generation? If not do something about it.
  2. Solidify the firm culture while encouraging the next generation to add their fingerprint. I know that it’s difficult… be open-minded.
  3. How will you ensure the financial health of the firm for the future?

What do you TRULY want to do with the rest of your life? If it is simply to play golf as long as you can, then you can stop reading and I wish you plenty of sunny days to be able to do that. But if it is not… I beg you to tap into the passions you have or shall I say, “had” and find a “calling”. I will tell you that I have found mine and as long as I stay relevant I think I should be able to write and coach lawyers until the day I kick-the-bucket. Find YOUR calling… the one squelched, by the demands of life and the profession. I am confident that something is in there just waiting to get out… open the door! Think outside the box, think creatively, think outrageously… be unreasonable! It takes vision and planning!

Get into action.

  1. Once you have identified your direction, write a list of things that have to be in place in order to make it a reality. Be specific… each goal should have a deadline attached to it so that you actually get it done
  2. Tell someone. Someone who will keep you accountable to your commitment and who won’t let you give up on your dreams.
  3. Read this quote by Goethe often… “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Cash out? Cashing out can take many forms, but the one thing they all have in common is VALUE. So, I ask you… Are you creating value? Are you looking at your firm and your book of business through the lens of value? Build something that has value to someone… the trick is putting together the “something” with the “someone.” It takes vision and planning.

Start creating value.

  1. Do you or your firm have expertise in a special area that would be attractive for a larger firm to acquire? If not… make it happen.
  2. Are your relationships with clients solid? If your client is within a large corporation do you have relationships with several people in different departments or divisions?
  3. Are you profitable? Are you charging enough? Are your expenses under control?

Don’t let your life’s work just evaporate into thin-air. Don’t let the last stage of your career just be about the activities you didn’t have time to do… make it be about your purpose… your calling! And remember, it all starts with vision, planning… and action.

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