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Where to start when succession planning

By Danielle DavisRoe, Affinity Consulting Group 

Succession planning is all about leaving a legacy. Lawyers who built their firms from the ground up and who contributed blood, sweat, and tears to the firms deserve to leave their marks. Leaving your legacy requires years of strategic planning and decision making. 

When considering your legacy, you must think about the people who will carry the torch once you retire, the core processes that keep business running smoothly, and how to successfully transition work and clients to those who follow in your footsteps. 

First Rate Players: You can’t plan for succession without planning for those who will succeed you. Early identification of star players provides you with time to mold them into stellar leaders and rainmakers. The sooner you start working with these key players, the more time you have available to help shape them into whom the firm needs them to be. 

Fundamental Processes: Every firm is driven by numerous fundamental processes. Leaving a legacy requires identifying those processes and documenting every step in that process, from client intake to closing letter. Process documentation has immediate benefits. New hire on-boarding is more efficient, and process documentation helps get everyone in the firm on the same page. 

While documenting processes, look for areas of potential improvement and gaps in the firm’s coverage. Ensure there is a backup for each task. Should someone suddenly leave the firm, you don’t want to be left in the lurch. 

Future Transitions: Transitioning work and clients is never easy. The most successful transitions start before retirement is on the horizon. When possible, ensure that every client works with and trusts at least two lawyers in the firm. Your clients must be comfortable with your replacement before you decide to retire. 

Train associates to handle every type of matter that comes in. Work side-by-side on the complicated matters and provide them guidance on how to handle the thorniest issues. Then, when you are ready to retire, they will be ready to handle the workload. 

Succession planning isn’t easy. It requires strategic planning and must be kept in mind with every decision your firm makes. It is never too early to start planning for retirement. 

Missouri Bar members can access white papers, checklists, and charts related to succession planning and process documentation, including the Planning Ahead Guide, at mobar.org/LPM.   

Members can also email their questions to or set up a one-on-one remote consultation with Affinity Consulting Group.