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Law Firm Succession Planning Registry Approved in Wisconsin

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on June 17, 2016 2:15 PM

Do you sometimes wonder who will take over your practice when you become incapacitated or pass away? The Wisconsin Board of Governors has addressed that problem recently by approving a succession planning registry.

As it stands, nothing mandates that lawyers within the state participate, but the working group charged with attacking the succession problem has recommended that a mandatory registry ought to be created sometime in the near future.

Impetus for the Succession Registry

The Board of Governors directed the staff of Wisconsin's State Bar to work on a registry for succession planning in the event that a principal died or became incapacitated. The aim was to vanguard the best interests of those clients who would be impacted in that interim of incapacity. State Bar President Ralph Cagle and retired Chief Appeals Court Judge Richard Brown formed the Succession Planning Working Group with exactly that aim in mind.

Since attorneys are under an ethical duty under the ABA rules to act "with reasonable diligence and promptness" when representing a client, Mr. Cagle noted that succession helped ensure that clients' needs would not be neglected.

Cagle noted a few anecdotal stories of clients and personal representatives caught in the dark once an attorney died or became incapacitated without naming a successor.

Easy as 1-2-3

Participation in the registry plan will be voluntary, but a number of recommendations have already been put into place.

  • First, the registry will be accessible through WisBar.org and will provide succession planning information for judges, clients, and other persons in the event of lawyer incapacity.
  • Second, there will be a strong push for education and training related to succession planning through the use of CLEs.
  • Third, it will be recommended that law schools push for succession planning as part of their ethics training.

Full details regarding the program can be found at WisBar.org

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