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Contingency Planning for Lawyers

COVID-19 UPDATE: Lawyers preparing for practice interruptions in the context of COVID-19 should consult the Law Society’s Frequently Asked Practice Management Questions regarding COVID-19.

Created on: October 2014 

Lawyers face the possibility of numerous unexpected interruptions in their law practices. Contingency planning for the operation of a law practice in the event of death, disability, or other unexpected periods of absence  may provide peace of mind for lawyers as well as the lawyers’ loved ones, clients, and employees. The Contingency Planning Guide for Lawyers (the “Guide”) has been prepared to encourage and assist lawyers who are in private practice to make such plans.

Table of Contents

1.1  How to Use this Guide
1.2  Terminology
1.3  Business Structures
1.4  Sample Documents 1.5  Other Resources

1.1 How to Use This Guide

The sample documents, checklists, and other resources contained in this Guide are not intended as legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. This Guide does not replace a lawyer’s professional judgment or establish a one-size-fits-all approach to contingency planning. Lawyers should make contingency plans that take into consideration the unique and particular circumstances of their practice and thoughtfully adapt any sample documents to their situation.
Lawyers who lack the requisite knowledge and skill to develop their own contingency plans or prepare the required documentation should seek the advice of a lawyer with expertise in the area. In addition, depending on the lawyer’s circumstances, the lawyer may wish to consult with a financial advisor.

1.2 Terminology

 For the purposes of this Guide, the following definitions apply:
Sole proprietor” means a sole practitioner, a lawyer practising as a sole proprietor in association with another lawyer(s), or a lawyer practising through a professional corporation of which the lawyer is the sole shareholder.
Planning Lawyer” means the lawyer who makes arrangements for a Replacement Lawyer to take over the lawyer’s law practice and protect the interests of the lawyer’s clients in the event of the lawyer’s death, disability, or unexpected absence from practice.
Replacement Lawyer” means a lawyer entitled to practise law in Ontario who takes over the Planning Lawyer’s law practice in the event that the Planning Lawyer dies, becomes disabled, or is unexpectedly absent from practice. Successful planning for death, disability, or other unexpected absences from practice depends upon the existence of a Replacement Lawyer who is willing and able to take over the Planning Lawyer’s practice. Lawyers are encouraged to assist their colleagues and protect the interests of their colleagues’ clients by agreeing to act as Replacement Lawyers if their circumstances permit.

1.3 Business Structures

Contingency planning best practices differ depending on whether the lawyer is a sole proprietor or is practising in partnership or in a professional corporation with more than one lawyer. Lawyers should first review the key steps or considerations that apply to them based on their business structure:

1.4 Sample Documents

This Guide contains the following sample documents:

1.5 Other Resources

This Guide contains the following additional supports and resources to assist lawyers in developing contingency plans:
Terms or Concepts Explained