Many lawyers and law firms do not plan ahead for emergencies in their practice. When a principal attorney, managing partner, or law firm owner dies, becomes physically or mentally incapacitated, or is removed, suspended, or otherwise disabled, the law firm’s operations can become disrupted if no strategy for continuity and succession is in place. Leaving clients unprotected and neglecting cases following an emergency can lead to malpractice claims and ethical violations. That is why law firms need to have an emergency preparedness plan. The attorneys at PALUMBO LAW offer unique services to law firms and solo practitioners in the area of law firm succession planning, emergency law firm management and successor counsel.
The Fundamentals of Emergency Law Firm Management
The ultimate goal of planning for and responding to law firm emergencies is to reduce disruptions as much as possible. Unlike some larger firms that may have the infrastructure, resources, and manpower to internally deal with unexpected interruptions, solo practitioners and law firms with fewer attorneys often have much more difficulty dealing with crises on their own. The most pressing issues that arise when the unexpected happens are:
- How will the firm’s day-to-day operations and management continue?
- Who will be responsible for handling active cases and addressing the immediate needs of the clients?
- What will happen to the firm’s employees?
Planning ahead is the key to avoid jeopardizing the firm’s clients and operations. To solve these dilemmas, in addition to having contingency procedures in place, PALUMBO LAW is available to step in and assist by acting as successor counsel and as a temporary law firm manager to manage the law firm and keep the practice intact. For litigation matters pending in court, a successor counsel is needed to continue litigating the cases.
The Role of an Interim Law Firm Managing Attorney
An outside attorney may serve as a temporary manager on behalf of the law firm or solo practice for short or long periods of time. However, this role should not be filled by just any attorney. Proper emergency law firm management requires an experienced practitioner who is fully familiar with all aspects of running a law practice. These duties include:
- Serving as temporary counsel of record in litigation matters
- Reviewing and docketing case files for impending deadlines and obtaining extensions if needed
- Communicating with clients
- Safekeeping file storage and original client documents such as wills
- Identifying possible conflicts of interest
- Understanding the firm’s billing and accounting procedures
- Securing client funds and handling trust accounts
- Managing the firm’s finances and payroll
- Handling personnel issues
- Making sure computer systems continue to function smoothly
- Dealing with vendors, leasing, and office equipment
- Maintaining malpractice insurance coverage
- Closing the law practice and winding up the firm’s affairs
Death of a Sole Practitioner
The death of a solo practitioner can be particularly problematic without a proper estate plan in place. If a solo practitioner authorizes another lawyer to act as the assisting attorney to manage the practice in the event of an emergency, that authority terminates when the solo practitioner dies and the representative of the solo practitioner’s estate will have the legal authority to administer the practice. Delays in the probate proceedings may prevent the handpicked assisting attorney from managing the law practice until the estate matters get sorted out.
Choose PALUMBO LAW for your Rhode Island Emergency Law Firm Practice Management and Successor Counsel Needs
It’s never too soon to have a plan in place to protect your firm, your clients, and your staff in the event of an emergency. If your law firm is facing the sudden death, incapacity, or disability of the principal attorney, or if you are a solo practitioner concerned about what will happen to your law practice if something happens to you, do not delay. Our experienced attorneys and law firm managers can help give you peace of mind. Contact PALUMBO LAW today.