The question of practice succession is a difficult one, but looms large for the legal profession in Wash- ington state. There are a growing number of experienced attorneys eeking to wind down their career
and transition their practice, but who aren’t
necessarily in a position to provide constant
oversight or add an associate’s salary as they
prepare for retirement. conversely, there are a
large number of newly minted attorneys looking to launch their legal career who are willing,
but unable, to shoulder the responsibility of immediately taking over an established practice.
They need mentorship, guidance, and a living
wage as they embark on their career.
Thus, a tension in the practice succession
discussion arises. experienced professionals
would like to transition their successful practice, but need to do so in a
manner that is financially beneficial, protects and serves their clients,
and helps launch them into retirement. Young attorneys are enthusiastic, but not yet prepared, to step into an established practice and provide the required level of representation to an established client base.
When we founded Apex Law in 2011, we examined a number of
ways to increase our client base. We had the benefit of attorneys with
5–7 years of experience, so that foundation of legal practice and client
management had already been laid, but it was our first time starting
a legal practice. Naturally, the idea of bringing in an experienced attorney with an existing book of business appealed to us a great deal.
Not as a means to supplant traditional methods of building a firm, but
certainly as a means to increase workload and gain knowledge from
someone who had been through these battles before.
So what we did was position ourselves in the middle ground —
between the veteran attorney looking for
a way to transition in a financially ben-
eficial manner, and the younger attorney
seeking to break into the practice of law
but without the benefit of experience.
This was not a reinvention of the wheel by
any means, and was in line with a larger
law firm model where departing partners
leave their client matters to seasoned ju-
nior partners and senior associates, who
are prepared for the responsibility, and
who in turn pass down assignments to
younger associates, growing their com-
petency and knowledge base over time.
Thus far we have implemented this
model several times in one form or another with positive results. To the experienced attorneys we have partnered with,
we have provided office space, email,
a phone line, insurance coverage, and
support to help them continue to serve
their clients in a professional manner.
It has not been a substitute for building
Apex Law through traditional means of
networking and client development, but
it has been mutually beneficial to the parties involved. our experienced attorneys
have been able to continue their practice
uninterrupted, offloading only those
projects they no longer wish to handle,
or new matters they do not want to take
on. They can direct how the matter is
handled given their knowledge and pre-existing relationship with the client, but
there is also trust (that must be earned)
that the work they are passing along is
Handling the Practice
Succession Issue in
by eric J. camm
. . . the legal profession
in general needs to do a
better job of providing
opportunities to young
attorneys, even in a
time when economic
uncertainty has rocked
the traditional legal