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Issue 67 | January 2021

LIANSWERS

This newsletter includes information to help lawyers reduce the likelihood of being sued for malpractice. The material presented is not intended to establish, report, or create the standard of care for lawyers. The articles do not represent a complete analysis of the topics presented, and readers should conduct their own appropriate legal research.
Introducing LOMC Standard #9: Succession Planning

The new Succession Planning Professional Standard introduced here, effective February 2, 2021, is a result of work ongoing since 2017, when Council appointed a Working Group to consider the implications for the profession if lawyers and firms do not have effective plans in place to deal with any unplanned practice interruption. The Succession Planning Working Group found that the lack of support and preparation for lawyers to wind-up practices at the end of their careers is a significant challenge for the profession and a major regulatory risk for the Society.

A consultation process followed and in May 2018, Council approved amendments to the Regulations made pursuant to the Legal Profession Act to include a requirement for lawyers and law firms to develop and maintain succession plans for all lawyers associated with the firm. (See subregulations 4.6.1 (law firms) and 4.6.2 (sole practitioners), and subregulations 4.6.4 through 4.6.6 providing a framework for the development of a succession plan.)

Rather than taking a compliance-driven approach, the Society has focused since on developing resources and supports to help lawyers and firms realize these obligations in ways that make sense for their practices and circumstances. Initiatives include:

  • A Succession Planning Toolkit was developed by NSBS Legal Services Support (LSS). Staff work with lawyers to help them interpret guidance and customize the Toolkit’s policy and plan templates to reflect their unique circumstances. Meetings are held regularly with lawyers to work through file retention and other questions relating to practice succession and wind-up planning. Please contact the LSS team at any time.
  • The Law Office Management Standards Committee developed the new Succession Planning Practice Standard, reflecting requirements set out in Regulations for a succession plan and providing clear guidance ‘below the line’ to assist lawyers and firms in fulfilling their obligations.
  • Work is ongoing both at Council, Committee and staff levels to identify and break barriers to effective practice succession. The Law Office Management Standards Committee is working toward amending professional standards to make file retention and destruction easier. The Trust Account Working Group continues working on solutions to enable timely access to trust funds for successors. A Working Group is being struck to consider, among other issues, the additional pressures on rural lawyers to find practice successors.  

Legal Services Support is interested in your ideas for ways the Society can help you comply with your obligations. Please reach out. Feedback relating to the Standard will be brought back to the Law Office Management Standards Committee. ‘Below the line’ guidance on the new Succession Planning Standard will be updated as work across the Society evolves and new solutions are developed.