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OBA Ethics Counsel

‘Planning Ahead Guide’ Completed and Posted to Bar Website

By Travis Pickens and Susan Shields

At the direction of OBA President Renee DeMoss, the “Planning Ahead Guide: Attorney Transition Planning in the Event of Death or Incapacity,” was recently completed by a working group of attorneys selected by President DeMoss. The handbook and forms were adapted from a similar publication authored by the Oregon State Professional Liability Fund, which generously provided access to the OBA so long as the book is used by bar members for their own benefit and not sold or distributed for profit. You will find it on the OBA website by logging onto and clicking on the “Attorney Transition Planning Guide” link.

With the baby boomer generation of lawyers getting ever closer to retirement, it is essential that each lawyer in our bar have a transition plan. Approximately 50 percent of the current bar membership is composed of lawyers age 50 and older. Perhaps due to this fact, the offices of Ethics Counsel and General Counsel are receiving an increased number of calls from loved ones or clients of lawyers who have either died, often suddenly, or become disabled and are no longer able to practice. Typically, the lawyer has not adequately prepared for this possibility. Even when the lawyer is a member of a firm or legal department, the transition from such a situation is not always smooth, and the confusion can be especially acute if the lawyer is in solo practice. No lawyer knows everything about the practice of the lawyer in the next office or building.

This “Planning Ahead Guide” has been created with the hope that it will assist all Oklahoma lawyers, especially those in solo practice, to plan for the succession or winding down of their practices, just as they would hopefully plan for their personal estates. The failure to plan not only puts clients in temporary jeopardy, but can add another layer of stress to an unprepared, despondent family, who are often not equipped or motivated to deal with such a situation.

The new planning guide is in place to help you start this important process now. You can make the forms and checklists your own, and the guide gives you a perfect place to start. The OBA urges you to start your planning today, to protect your valued clients, staff and family.

The new ethics opinion index may be accessed by going to and clicking on “Topical Index”. Any suggestions or comments to improve the quality of the index are welcome and may be sent directly to me at

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- Dec. 13, 2014 -- Volume 85, No. 33.