No lawyer, even a sole practitioner, is an island. A lawyer's family is inescapably part of the practice equation, throughout a career. Lawyers in solo and small firm practices are particularly vulnerable to stress and burnout because of worry over how to balance income and client demands with the financial and time needs of a family. This is something not taught in law school. But family can be a part of practice decisions in other, less apparent ways, particularly as lawyer and practice reach the end of their natural lifetimes. I received two recent inquiries that brought this point home to me.
In the first, I received a call from the son of a woman lawyer who had just died unexpectedly. The son wanted to sell his mother's practice; but he knew virtually nothing about the practice itself or its clients, including whether his mother had any referral arrangement with another lawyer to take care of clients. He had even less of an idea about who to turn to for help in making the sale, and had not even begun to take his mother's estate, including the practice, through probate. I offered what advice I could, but it was clear that, because of the time pressures involved, the son likely would not realize the practice's true value.
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