I am a sole practitioner in Bloomington, Illinois. My practice is general practice and most of my clients are either individuals or small businesses. I have one legal assistant and one paralegal that works for me. I am 62 and am starting to think about what to do with my practice and what I need to be thinking about concerning selling my practice. I would be interested in your suggestions.
I would start by asking yourself when you actually want to retire or quit. Do you really want to stop practicing law or do you want to work forever? Over two thirds of the solo and small firm lawyers that I speak with advise me that they want to practice forever - maybe not full throttle - but on a continued but scaled back schedule.
Review Rule 1.17 - Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct to insure that you understand the method and the restrictions involved in sale of a law practice.
If you want to continuing practicing determine whether selling your law practice is your best option given Rule 1.17. Some of our clients are exploring other options including bringing in other attorneys and forming partnerships or merging with other firms.
If you determine that selling the practice is the route you want to go here are a few ideas to begin readying it for sale:
- Decide when you want to retire and leave your firm.
- Determine who your would like to transfer the practice.
- Determine the your goals for sale of your practice and the priority and what is most important to you. (clients, staff, money or sweat equity, etc.)
- Determine how much the practice is worth today.
- Begin finding way to institutionalize the firm so the client and other relationships are less uniquely you.
- Begin implementing management practices that will systemize your firm and improve it's future value. (written procedures and policies, checklists, forms, automated case management systems, organized client files, accounting systems, etc. ) Document everything.
- Draft and implement a succession/exit plan and implement same. Insure that it incorporates safeguards for your clients, employees, and family if the unexpected happens to you.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC