What does succession look like? Is “succession planning” a nice way of saying it’s time to hang it up? The conversation surrounding succession planning can sometimes be overwhelming or swept under the rug altogether. Join us on November 7, 2018 at the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, N.C. as Lawyers Mutual Consulting and Services President, Camille Stell and Tom Lenfestey, owner of the Law Practice Exchange, host a one-of-a kind workshop on succession planning. Follow our blog for our two part interview with event hosts to find out everything you need to know about the upcoming program.
LM: Tom, you have spent years working with lawyers and helping them successfully transition out of practice. What have you found to be the most common challenges of succession planning for lawyers?
TL: First, is most definitely a lack of knowledge as to the options, the process and the opportunities that putting a succession plan in place allows. The resources aren't out there for lawyers like they are for other professionals like dentists, CPAs and doctors on how-to transition or what it involves. We have discussed with numerous attorneys over the years that they aren't ready to stop practicing law, they don't think they can transition or sell their practice or are considering this as an option for retirement 'down the road.' Transition planning is all about putting plans in place now in order to take control of your professional timeline and making the value-based transfer to a successor work. The second, is accountability. Sometimes our biggest service can be in explaining that transitioning your law firm through internal succession or external sale is a defined process and then making sure the attorneys or law firms involved continue to make progress and actually implement the plan. Lawyers are busy serving clients, running a professional business and those demands quickly sidetrack even the best intentions. Having a process for lawyer transition and being there to help make sure steps are achieved are key obstacles we strive to overcome.
LM: What sets this program apart from other succession planning programs?
TL: This is not your typical CLE program. Our goal was to build something very different on structure and delivery through live consultant lead training and analysis of their firm's unique needs and structure. We have the education part of a typical program, but by working with lawyers before the event on their law firm's valuation, succession criteria and overall discovery we are able to provide analysis the day of the event they can apply to what they are learning and actually implement walking out the next day. As well, we have focused on resources to make the process easier for implementation. All the tools, checklists, action plans and structure templates you may need will be also offered to attendees.
LM: When should lawyers begin thinking about succession planning?
TL: Now! By far the biggest issue we have is attorneys contacting us with short timelines. Transition takes time. In order to achieve your goals and what may work for your firm and successor, the more lead time the better. Once we start the process, the owner-attorney is put in control of the timeline and how he or she wants things to work. If they wait, life and business have a way of quickly getting in the way and creating situations which give you less control or choice. Starting now allows the attorney to control their firm's legacy and their professional timeline.
LM: What do you hope participants will take away from this program?
TL: I hope they feel empowered. That may sound a bit too Tony Robbins like, but our goal is to truly show attorneys and law firms that succession planning is achievable and doesn't have to be something you talk about, but never do. Make decisions now that will help maximize value for retirement, allow your legacy of what you have built over your career to continue with a qualified successor and continue the great service to clients and community.
LM: For those who may not be familiar with the Law Practice Exchange, can you tell us how you connect those looking to sell and/or buy law practices?
TL: Our two key service lines focus on helping attorneys who are owners of practices prepare for transition. One path involves internal succession to junior partners or non-equity attorneys which is the focus of this program. However, for many solo practitioners, small partnerships and sole or small group ownership firms they don't always have the internal succession option. In those cases we take a marketplace approach to prepare their firm and confidentially market it to outside attorney or firm buyers. Those external buyers are typically attorneys or law firms focused on growth or not starting from scratch in certain markets and are fully willing to implement a transition-based acquisition where they can merge and deliver value for the attorney's practice while also allowing them to transition on their desired timeline. We have had great success with the marketplace approach as well and it provides the perfect first option for certain attorneys or firms looking at transition or a second option where succession is desired, but not always achievable for one reason or another.
LM: Who is encouraged to register for this event?
TL: Lawyers who own or run their own law practice and don't have a transition or 'what-if' plan for the day an unplanned event occurs or the day they want to start looking at slowing down and retiring. Again, discussing and implementing a succession plan doesn't mean you are done or will be done practicing law in the near future. Instead, this program offers a plan where you are in control of your professional timeline. Retirement of lawyers is still 100%...at some point in time. It is never too early to start building out your plan for when that time comes.
LM: I notice that you have limited attendance to the first 20 registrants.
TL: There is a great deal of work we perform before the event in order to analyze the law firm and their succession goals. We provide the law firm appraisal and transition analysis unique to their firm. Sign up early as we have work to do before the event. We firmly believe you will see the value for the cost and commitment of time to this process, and if you don’t, we are offering a money-back guarantee.
About the Author
Lawyers Mutual, founded in 1977, is the first lawyers mutual insurance company in the country and has provided continuous professional liability coverage to North Carolina lawyers for 40 years. Its reputation for leadership, professionalism and commitment to its attorneys sets the standard for other legal malpractice insurance providers. For more information, call 800.662.8843, follow us on Twitter @LawyersMutualNC, connect on our LinkedIn page, like us on Facebook