Law Practice Management, 1021 WYBJ, Vol. 44 No. 5. 56

AuthorMark Bassingthwaighte ALPS
PositionVol. 44 5 Pg. 56

Law Practice Management

No. Vol. 44 No. 5 Pg. 56

Wyoming Bar Journal

October, 2021

Preparing for an Extended Absence: Advice for the Solo Attorney

Mark Bassingthwaighte ALPS

Given how difficult it can be to try and take a planned absence, such as a long vacation or maternity or paternity leave, it’s no wonder that having to cope with the consequences of an extended unplanned absence, perhaps due to the sudden onset of a serious health issue, can result in a crisis mode response. In short, an extended absence can be problematic to say the least. Te good news is that it needn’t be this way. Regardless of the reason behind an extended absence, the accompanying headaches some solos experience can be minimized with a little proactive planning.

The place to start is to find another lawyer willing to act as your backup attorney. If your practice is comprised of several practice areas, you may need to have more than one backup attorney. For some solos, this person may be the same person who has already agreed to assist in the winding up of your practice in the event of your death or disability. Now, understand that a backup attorney’s responsibilities during your absence does not include maintaining your practice. A backup attorney is only there to assist any of your clients with an unforeseen legal emergency. Keep this in mind as it may make the process of finding a backup attorney a bit easier.

Beyond just naming a backup attorney, there are several other things you might do in terms of proactive planning. Consider providing notice of the existence of and reason for a backup attorney in your fee agreements so that clients are aware that you have taken steps to protect their interests in the event of an emergency. Maintain a current office procedures manual that outlines your calendaring system, conflict system, active file list, open and closed file systems, accounting system, and any other key systems. Tis can help a backup attorney come up to speed as quickly as possible in the event of an emergency. Of utmost importance is always keeping critical systems such as the calendar and conflict systems current and making sure that all files are thoroughly documented and kept current.

With the above in place, preparing for a planned absence is relatively straightforward. Here are six key things you will need to take care of:

1. All clients will need to be notified as far in advance as...

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