Succession planning fosters order and emergency preparedness. The Texas Supreme Court regulates cessation of practice, consistent with these principles.
For emergency management and client protection, the State Bar of Texas urges members to designate in advance one or more custodian-attorneys. A custodian attorney assists in winding down the lawyer’s law practice, in the event need arises under Part XIII of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure (TRDP).
By designating a custodian-attorney, you are not binding the lawyer to take over your practice and represent your clients. Instead, you are designating a licensed Texas attorney who can contact your clients, encourage them to obtain legal counsel, and assist in the physical disposition of client files.
The mechanics of TRDP Part XIII differentiate between basic cessations and cessations involving extraordinary circumstances. Basic cessations channel through TRDP 13.01, which does not involve court action.
In extraordinary circumstances, such as the unexpected death of a busy sole practitioner, the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel or any interested person may petition a court to assume jurisdiction over the lawyer’s law practice. Prerequisites for the petition appear at TRDP 13.02. If the court assumes jurisdiction, the court will appoint one or more Texas attorneys to serve as custodian-attorneys under TRDP 13.03.
In each instance, the advance designation of custodian-attorney facilitates the process. The practical objectives are the same:
-Access to client files;
-Notice to the lawyer’s clients and others that the lawyer has ceased practice;
-Direction from the client on where the client wants the client file to go; and
-Return of client property
Take the following steps to designate a custodian-attorney:
Identify an attorney who is willing to serve as your custodian-attorney, in the event need arises under TRDP Part XIII. Consider identifying an alternate custodian-attorney in the event the primary custodian-attorney is unable or unwilling to assume the role at any time.
Complete the Electronic Designation Form, available here.
The designation automatically prompts an email to your designee(s). Lawyers designated may accept or decline the designation.
The State Bar will retain a record of the designation, which will also be available to you at MyBarPage.