Effective on Christmas Day this year, all Iowa attorneys in private practice -- those in solo practices as well as those practicing in a firm with other attorneys – are required to meet at least the first-tier planning requirements of Iowa Court Rule 39.18. The information must be provided on the annual client security questionnaire all Iowa-licensed attorneys complete each March.
A paper entitled “Attorney Death and Disability Planning” on the ISBA’s website contains guidance on complying with Rule 39.18 requirements. Another paper entitled “Expecting the Unexpected: Succession Planning for Lawyers” provided by CNA through Lockton Affinity, the ISBA-endorsed broker of professional liability insurance, also contains practical suggestions for creating a succession plan. Among some of the suggestions are creating an office manual, executing a succession agreement that outlines the duties expected from the “designated attorney” and determining the circumstances under which the “planning attorney” is considered incapacitated and the designated attorney takes over. (Contact Michael Schrandt at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)
Even though the second-tier requirements of Rule 39.18 are optional, the planning document on the ISBA website recommends that attorneys create a written plan that grants the designated attorney further guidance and authority to “perform law firm management and administrative tasks.” Those tasks may include collecting fees, paying law firm expenses and client costs, compensating staff, terminating leases and selling the practice. (A four-part series on the benefits of creating a more detailed succession plan is being published in the Iowa Lawyer; the first installment was featured in the September issue.)