Are You Ever Too Young to Think About Succession Planning?

Posted by Audrey Ehrhardt, Esquire, CBC

Most of us know that succession planning isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. If we know this, however, why is it so hard to complete?

I said complete not begin on purpose.

The reason why is most of us have an idea of what the end of our legal careers will look like –  fewer hours, reduced workloads, a trusted attorney to turn your business over to, a compensation contract that recognizes your contribution and sacrifice to the law firm. Ultimately, we want to set up a structure for the legal brand we have created that will continue.

What we don’t have a realistic idea of, however, is what the actual succession plan we create will look like in our law practice. We don’t know the final form the contract will take. We don’t anticipate the hours of uncertainty we will spend deciding if it is the right contract for us to sign. We aren’t ready for the commitment to negotiation, debate and mediation to reach an agreement that works for all parties involved. We aren’t prepared for employee attrition and we haven’t positioned ourselves to keep those employees that are key to our firm running efficiently.

We especially aren’t ready for the fear; the fear of uncertainty, the fear of the future, the fear of being taken advantage of, the fear of losing the very thing we care so much about. While the fear initially may drive you, at the end of the day, unaddressed, it can prevent you from making the right decision for you and your firm.

This week, I was speaking at the National Association of Legal Administrators Conference in Denver on the role of your team members in succession planning. A working succession plan that meets the needs of all involved in the practice can successfully be created. If you’d like our practice42 sample agreement that I shared, just let me know and I will send it over to you. Now, will one succession plan work for everyone? Absolutely not, but it can provide a framework to work from to create our own.

Before you get started, though, I want you to honestly answer the following 5 questions on the why behind the reason you are thinking of succession planning. It could be as simple as you want to have a plan in place should something happen to you tonight. Answering these questions honestly will define your succession planning goals and allow you to create strategies to implement to get you there:

1.  Is this succession planning or disability planning?

2.  How committed are you to the process? What are the deal breakers? What is the real reason you are considering it?

3.  What are you transitioning? Clients? Goodwill? Team? Brand? Marketing? Intellectual property?

4.  What is your timetable from start through implementation?

5.  Who do you need to help you in this process? Key employee? Accountant?

There is no wrong time to start succession planning. If you need help getting started just let us know!

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