Note: Please also visit LIANS’ Succession Planning page, which also features a PDF package of checklists and other resources that you may find beneficial. 

The following checklist does not deal with the sale of a practice which involves valuation and accounting issues.  It does not propose to be a comprehensive list, but rather a starting point. It is geared primarily to the sole or small firm practitioner who will be winding up his or her practice or to those assisting in an involuntary windup of a lawyer’s practice.

  1. Finalize as many active files as possible. Decide when you will cease to accept new files. Print and complete the Office Closure File Tracking Chart.
  2. Notify clients with active files that you are retiring from practice and that a new lawyer needs to be retained. A new lawyer can be recommended but the client should be made aware that he or she can choose another lawyer to assume their file. You should inform them about time limitations and time frames important to their cases (see sample precedent), and provide applicable authorizations for the client’s signature.
  3. Check for potential conflicts before referring and transferring client files to another lawyer. If the client chooses to self represent, have a receipt of file signed by the client. Maintain a copy of the file.
  4. For cases that have pending court dates, discoveries or other appearances, discuss with the client and assuming lawyer how to proceed.
  5. Where applicable, ensure that a ‘Notice of Change of Solicitor’ is filed or a ‘Notice of Intention to Act in Person’ (signed by the client) is filed.
  6. Advise the Prothonotary of your retirement and your contact information.
  7. Review closed files to determine whether they should continue to be stored, destroyed, returned to the client or, with the client’s consent, transferred to another lawyer for storage. If transferred to another law firm, get written confirmation that these files will be maintained and made available to LIANS or yourself if needed to respond to a claim against you. How long a file should be retained depends on the type of case, the client, and the advice given, especially where your advice is ignored. Many files or copies of files should be kept indefinitely. Without a file, it is almost impossible to defend an errors and omissions claim.
  8. a) For Real Property Matters ensure that all foundation documents are maintained and or transferred in accordance with Legal Profession Act Regulations
    b) Make sure that all required Client ID documentation is maintained in accordance with the Client ID Regulations
  9. If you do destroy a file, keep a record of the files destroyed and the destruction date. Protect the client confidentiality by shredding. For files transferred, maintain a record of instructions received and where file was sent.
  10. Maintain your old phone number for six months or a year, or arrange for a new phone number to be given out or a voice-mail activated when your old phone number is called so former clients have some way to contact you for file information. Re-direct mail.
  11. Seek instructions from corporate clients for new addresses for their registered and records office and ensure that the notices are filed with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies.
  12. Make satisfactory arrangements to fulfill any outstanding undertakings. Complete reporting letters.
  13. Submit the application to the Society required for Change of Category (see application).
  14. Close trust accounts and file applicable audit reports.
  15. Complete billings to clients.
  16. Terminate lease or sublet office premises and deal with office equipment leases.
  17. Give sufficient notice to staff of your pending retirement.
  18. Pay any outstanding firm liabilities.
  19. If applicable, leave open a general account to satisfy any outstanding obligations or for receipt of any accounts receivable after the closure of your practice.

These checklists have been adapted and reprinted in part with the permission of the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund – all rights reserved.