Keeping the Success in Succession Planning: Part II

Practical Steps to Ensure a Smooth (and Lucrative) Transition By Terrie S. Wheeler Here are more important steps you should consider as you are considering transitioning your practice:

  • Identify your Successor – It’s time to actively search for that person to whom you will pass the torch. Search for a stellar, high talent lawyer who is genuinely interested in your practice. Take this person under your wing and mentor them so that when you do reduce your hours, your practice will sustain itself and grow. As you meet with your contacts and referral sources, bring your successor to meetings and suggest that your contact bring one of their high talent younger professionals.


  • Have Open Discussions – When you have found the person to take over your practice someday, schedule at least two or three honest, open discussions where you each share:
    • Your top inherent strengths (take the Gallop Organization’s StrengthsFinder).
    • The top three-to five-year goals you have over the next five to 10 years for your life personally and professionally.
    • Traits and characteristics you need in a business partner.
    • Roles and responsibilities you would play in the practice as one lawyer ramps up and the other ramps down.
    • Potential barriers you see to forming a successful partnership.
    • Your individual approaches to handling potentially difficult situations.
    • How income and expenses will be managed including how you would be compensated.
    • Any concerns you have about becoming business partners.
    • Timelines and next steps on when to pull a corporate lawyer into the mix to create the partnership agreement, operating agreement and buy-sell agreement.


  • Pull in an Expert – The closer you get to finding the one, hire a business and marketing consultant who can lead the meetings and help you pursue the activities above. Having a third party facilitate discussion creates a more comfortable environment to share your thoughts and concerns. There are no set rules or magic eight balls to consult to determine the right time to begin executing a succession plan. Some lawyers plan to practice law until they are physically or mentally unable to do so. For those of you who want to enjoy the life you have worked hard to build a little earlier, however, follow the ideas shared above over the next three to five years and you will be well on your way to scaling back with grace, safe in the knowledge that your legacy will continue.


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