Board of Professional Conduct Offers Succession Planning Tips
The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct today released an Ethics Guide on Succession Planning. The guide outlines steps that a lawyer should take to protect the interests of the lawyer’s clients in the event of the lawyer’s death, disability, disappearance, or discipline.
The guide describes a succession plan as a comprehensive document that details key information about the lawyer’s practice including the status and location of files, how to access the calendaring system, and contact information for staff and key vendors. The guide also recommends that a lawyer, as part of an overall succession plan, enter into a written agreement with the successor lawyer. The written agreement can contain core elements such as authority to notify clients of the death or disability of the lawyer, review and inventory of the lawyer’s client files, and authority to access financial and bank information. The successor lawyer may, with the client’s prior consent, carry out actions needed to preserve the client’s interests in litigation.
The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct do not mandate that a lawyer create a succession plan, however the guide cites to rules and comments, that when read together, strongly encourage the development of a plan. By publishing the guide, the Board joins other state lawyer regulatory bodies nationwide in educating lawyers about the need to adequately plan for their death or disability.
The Ethics Guide on Succession Planning is the second in a series of guides produced by Board staff. In 2016, the Board published the Ethics Guide on Client File Retention. Future guides will address issues such as lawyers transitioning to the bench from private or public practice and leaving a law firm.
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