Creating a Formal Succession Plan, 0121 COBJ, Vol. 50, No. 1 Pg. 27

PositionVol. 50, 1 [Page 27]

50 Colo.Law. 27

Creating a Formal Succession Plan

Vol. 50, No. 1 [Page 27]

Colorado Lawyer

January, 2021



This is the second article in our succession planning series. The first article explained why succession planning is important to your well-being and offered a few basic steps to get started.[1] This article discusses the matter more in-depth, beginning with who might wind down your practice in die event of your death or disability. For additional assistance, ask your professional liability insurer for resources or check out die Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel's guide to succession planning.[2]

Successor Counsel versus Inventory Counsel

There are two categories of lawyers who can wind down the law practice of an attorney who unexpectedly dies, ends up on disability inactive status, or is otherwise unable to practice law: successor counsel and inventory counsel.

Successor counsel is an assisting attorney who agrees in advance to take over for the attorney should the unexpected happen, while inventory counsel is appointed by the court after the disabling or disqualifying event through a procedure established in CRCP 251.32(h). A critical distinction between successor counsel and inventory counsel is that a contract defines a successor counsel's scope of work, whereas Rule 251.32(h) defines inventory counsel's scope of work, and the court supervises that work. Accordingly, the primary benefit of entering into a successor counsel agreement is that you can define the scope of successor counsel's duties to include, for example, dissolving the firm.

The Limited Role of Inventory Counsel

Under Rule 251.3 2(h), when there is no successor counsel plan in place, Attorney Regulation Counsel can petition the chief judge of the judicial district where the deceased or disabled lawyer had his or her registered address to appoint inventory counsel. This appointment creates a civil district court case, allowing the court to enter orders to facilitate inventory counsel's work. This might involve, for example, entering an order authorizing destruction of unclaimed client files. Inventory counsel's appointment is for limited purposes, such as inventorying client files, returning them to clients, and disbursing funds in the lawyer's COLTAF account. Rule 251.32(h) does not contemplate inventory counsel assuming client representation...

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