Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

A Guide to Succession Planning

Professional Development Counsel, Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel


The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel recently published its guide to succession planning, Planning Ahead: A Guide to Protecting Your Clients' Interests in the Event of Your Disability or Death (One of Which Is Inevitable), in Microsoft Word format. Prompting publication was a suggestion from the Colorado Bar Association’s Solo Small Firm Section that a Word version would allow lawyers to easily replicate and complete forms associated with this guide. Previously the guide was available as a PDF. Following the publication of the Word version of the guide, this article reviews the guide’s offerings on this important subject.

The guide has five parts. The first details a lawyer’s duty to plan ahead and critical “big-picture” issues. These include deciding who will wind down your practice, what that person’s duties are to your clients, and deciding who will be an authorized signer on your trust account.

The second part answers frequently-asked questions regarding succession planning. Many of these questions address concerns a lawyer volunteering to assist another lawyer in closing down a practice may have. For example, the questions address whether an assisting lawyer must notify the deceased or disabled lawyer’s former clients about a potential ethics violation or malpractice he or she discovers.

The third part offers checklists for both a lawyer creating a succession plan and for a lawyer closing down another lawyer’s practice.

The fourth part of the guide gives lawyers sample forms to aid in the succession planning process. For instance, it contains template agreements a lawyer can enter into with another lawyer who agrees to take over a lawyer’s practice in the event of death or disability. It also contains a template law office contacts form that a lawyer can use to document information ranging from how to contact a lawyer’s bookkeeper or landlord to his or her professional liability carrier.

The fifth part of the guide addresses file retention and destruction.

Commentary to Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 1.3 explains the duty of diligence may require solo practitioners to engage in succession planning in the event of the lawyer’s death or disability. Implementing a succession plan is integral to maintaining client confidences and protecting client property, duties the Rules of Professional Conduct impose on all lawyers. The Office’s guide provides a starting point. To review it in PDF or Word form, visit the Practice Management page on our website.