Planning for the Unexpected Checklist
- Maintain an office procedure manual outlining all key aspects of your practice and a list of all law office contacts. Some lawyers prepare a letter to their staff or spouse directing how matters should be dealt with in their absence. (see Chapter 57 of Flying Solo: A Survival Guide for the Solo and Small Firm Lawyer Fourth Edition, for a sample letter)
- Maintain an office limitation system and client file diary system, accurately reflecting all deadlines and all reminders so that next steps on files can be easily reviewed. Keep these systems up to date.
- Ensure that each client file contains sufficient detail that another lawyer taking over the file would know where the matter stood at any point in time.
- Keep your time and billing entries current.
- Obtain life insurance along with a disability policy to cover both your personal requirements in the event of loss of your earning power, and also to cover the costs associated with hiring another lawyer to administer your practice and cover cash flow requirements as the practice is closed or sold.
- Make arrangements with a colleague or another lawyer for them to step-in if you are not able to practice, for whatever reason. Consider whether a formal agreement is appropriate – possible examples of such agreements are available on the LSBC website but it is important to check with your own Law Society’s audit department to understand how these agreements will be viewed. Law Society of Alberta R. 119.21(1) requires approval by the Executive Director for a lawyer who is not a lawyer of the law firm to sign on a trust account. Consider including provisions in your retainer agreement as to the provisions in place in the event of your death, incapacity or impairment.
- Ensure that you have a valid will, including any terms required to deal with practice related issues. Also consider whether a Power of Attorney is required to deal with banking and trust accounting issues or your practice generally.
- Make sure that your staff, partners/associates, and family are aware of the arrangements that you have made.