Aiding Lawyers in Succession Planning

A look at State Bar of Texas resources.

Written by Gregory W. Sampson

Many lawyers in the “baby boom” generation—and the most thoughtful of the next generation of lawyers—are asking this pinnacle question, What should I be doing to prepare for my inevitable transition out of the full-time practice of law?

This question is essential on at least three levels. First, it embraces the obvious but uncomfortable reality that none of us will practice law forever. Second, it recognizes that our clients deserve an intentional succession to a worthy lawyer when we exit the practice, whether sudden or planned. Third, it concentrates efforts to achieve a respectable value for our decades of extremely hard work when we exit. For solo practitioners, the answer can often be the difference between a comfortable retirement or continued unplanned servitude to the practice.

Recognizing lawyers’ needs for resources for sound exit planning to maximize the benefits of their practice for themselves and their families, the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors approved several initiatives in recent years. One was the Succession Planning Work Group, which developed an online custodian appointment portal on the State Bar website and new Texas Disciplinary Rule of Procedure 13.04, enabling lawyers to name a custodian to wind up and close their practice in the event of a sudden cessation.

You can designate a custodian online and volunteer to serve as a custodian at

You can find other resources, forms, and checklists for designated custodians engaged in closing a practice at

This same work group and the State Bar of Texas Law Practice Management Committee that is continuing its work has helped compile articles, CLE presentations, suggested forms, checklists, and best practices outlines for those interested in sudden cessation custodianships and succession planning on the law practice management portal created for Texas lawyers at

Articles and checklists for planning and executing the closure of your practice and best practices for selling your practice in compliance with the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct can be found at

Ethical guidance on client file management and destruction, firm management issues, and selling your practice can be found in searches of ethics opinions on the Professional Ethics Committee for the State Bar of Texas webpage at More direct answers to ethical questions can be obtained by posing them on the State Bar of Texas’ toll-free Ethics Helpline at 800-532-3947.

Lawyers seeking to upgrade their practices with technology to better prepare for a practice transition with digitized files and business management tools that can enhance the value of a practice upon sale can find these tools at discount prices on the Member Benefits and Services webpage at

Even funding for the costs incurred when a sudden cessation of practice occurs due to a disability or death might be found on the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange portal on the Member Benefits webpage. There you will find special rates for Texas lawyers on disability insurance, accidental death and dismemberment, and life insurance. For more information, go to

The Law Practice Management Committee continues to work on a broader use succession planning manual providing guidance through the portal. Plans for the manual include articles on best practices, checklists, sample forms, and referrals to helpful resources to make succession planning easier and more accessible for busy lawyers. In addition to the great resources already provided to lawyers as outlined in this article, the committee hopes the manual will encourage more lawyers to take these important planning steps for the long-term health of their practice and their family.TBJ

is a trusts and estates attorney in Gray Reed’s Dallas office. He brings more than 30 years of experience to counseling clients on all aspects of wealth preservation and transfer, including estate and gift tax planning, charitable planning, retirement planning, estate and trust management, trust and estate controversy, trust modification and termination, family asset management, and business succession planning. Sampson is certified in estate planning and probate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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