As my presidential year nears an end, I think about how it has been an honor to lead the Illinois State Bar Association in providing attorneys with transition and succession-planning resources while continuing to oppose efforts that would allow for fee sharing with non-lawyers.
My presidential initiative on well-being extended beyond physical and mental health to also incorporate the financial health of a practice, particularly for attorneys who are planning for retirement.
The ISBA’s Financial Health and Wellness Subcommittee is creating programs that will feature financial counselors and business-valuation experts to help solo practitioners and small-town lawyers plan ahead for the sale of their practice.
Succession planning takes time. When I decided to sell my practice, I had to identify a buyer, find the best way to finance the purchase and determine an appropriate asking price. All in all, the process took three years.
In addition to helping seasoned attorneys find the resources they need to wind down their careers, I have continued to express serious concerns based on sound and valid public policy to oppose fee sharing with non-lawyers.
The Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Professional Responsibility is considering proposals to change the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct to allow fee sharing with non-lawyers.
On a national level, we’re seeing an influx of for-profit, non-lawyer businesses that have entered the legal services marketplace, often without regard to the restrictions of existing professional conduct rules.
The ISBA opposes fee sharing with non-lawyers. We understand that the attorney-client relationship is based on confidentiality and trust. We also understand that attorneys are uniquely qualified to provide the quality of legal representation that our clients deserve.
It is counter to our professional training, experience and ideals that non-lawyers would be able to direct the type, nature and extent of legal services between clients and attorneys.
With these priorities in mind, this year’s Law Day presents an opportunity for all lawyers to reflect on the rule of law and our obligations to our clients.