Is it time for you to hang up your robes and pursue life after law? Not so fast! There are a number of things that have to happen before you can lock the doors to your office and walk away into the sunset.
If you are a sole practitioner, some of your tasks will be the same as any other small business owner, such as giving notices of termination to staff, notice to your landlord and filing final GST and tax returns. However, as a member of the legal profession, you have additional obligations. These include giving adequate notice to your clients of your retirement and arranging for the orderly transfer of files, closing trust accounts, filing a final Self Report and a final Accounting Upload, returning original documents to clients and arranging for storage of closed files.
The key to winding up safely and effectively is mapping out your timelines and working backwards from your desired end point, budgeting in adequate lead time between each step. For instance, you cannot announce your retirement to your clients and assume they will all arrive the next day to pick up their files. Nor can you assume that you can wind up any existing matters, bill those files and get paid all within a month or two. Instead, you need to set target dates for matters such as refusing all new work and rendering final accounts. Doing so will allow you to arrive on time at the point where all trust funds have been disbursed, all files have been closed or transferred and all outstanding bills have been paid. Once that happens, you can take the last steps of filing your final Accounting Upload and Self Report, as well as submitting your application to become inactive. If you don’t build in adequate time for each of these steps, you may have to pay additional membership fees or insurance while you clean up the remnants of your practice.
The Practice Management department has worked with many members as they prepare for retirement, and we have distilled the lessons learned into Planning for Retirement: A Checklist.