Planning for, without exactly knowing, what will be

We are referring to disability or retirement or death.  Having advocated such planning, we have started to do it ourselves. We intend to share, in short posts, some thoughts and reflections along the way in the hope they will be of some interest and use to others.

The first logical step, it seems to us, is to think about the matters for which one was and is responsible in order to identify the clients (and specific matters) who will be affected when we stop practicing law.  Thinking about clients and files prompts our past – the way in which we have spent our life as a lawyer to this point – to demand that we pay attention to it, reflect on it, come to terms with it.  We feel trapped.  Behind us is the past – surely we cold have done better, much better.  We can’t change the past.  How we think of it, the sense we make of it, the perspective we give it – those things may change.  But, we can’t change the facts.  Ahead of us is whatever will be. Part of what will be we can’t change.  In that sense we can change neither the past nor the most significant fact of the future.  But, we can improve the future for our clients by creating a contingency plan to ensure a process for continuity of representation.  

Knowing, as we now do, that our past demands to be taken into account as we plan for our clients’ future we have made a deal with the past.  We have agreed to think about our past, to reflect on it honestly, and to learn from it on the condition that it not interrupt us while we plan for our clients’ future.  With that agreement in place, we can focus on the tasks at hand:  

  1. take an inventory of all clients and files, 
  2. make an accurate list, including contact information, and
  3. distinguish between open and closed matters taking care to be certain that the closed files really are closed – that there is a letter in the file confirming that the matter is closed and the representation over; and
  4. with regard to open matters, include in the contact information not only the client’s information, but also the contact information for others, if any, who might need to be contacted.