Attorneys back-up their computers without complaint, but a few have a real problem with having a backup attorney. Kind of like wearing a mask these days, it is for your own protection.
Malpractice insurer’s view backup attorneys for a solo practitioner as essential to help mitigate preventable legal malpractice exposures. A backup attorney should step in when unexpected circumstances to the insured attorney makes it impossible to appear for a court date or meet a client deadline. Hopefully, the backup attorney that can temporarily fill in to keep the practice going if needed. Solo attorneys need to have a plan.
Attorney Malpractice Insurers do not charge for a backup attorney, nor does the backup attorney need to be listed on firm’s letterhead, website, or office door. Solo attorneys should have ‘mutual aid’ agreements with other attorneys. This can be a very informal plan, which is all the malpractice insurer will require. But the best plans are formalized to the extent that the backup attorney with some assistance will know who to obtain access to the solo insured’s attorney’s calendar and case files. The solo attorney’s office staff needs to be aware of the arrangement.
With planned absences an attorney can arrange his/her schedule to accommodate upcoming cases, deadlines, and client meetings. Normally if you cannot be contacted for an extended period you have prearranged with your staff (if any) or another attorney to handle calls and client emergencies. But you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Like the vacation from hell where you cannot get off the cruise ship and are stuck in the middle of the ocean or when your son falls from a slide and breaks his arm.
Attorneys without a plan in place put a major burden on their loved ones, staff, and clients. Unfortunately, things happen. The unexpected absence can be temporary or permanent.
Some Basic steps:
1. Your backup attorney should have access to your files and client information in the event of your unplanned absence.
2. The designated backup attorney should have authorization to review your client files, determine which files/clients need immediate attention and determine how to notify clients of the situation.
3. The plan should be reviewed with your staff, loved ones and your backup attorney, so if the unexpected happens it can be addressed in the best manner possible.
Tips for finding a backup attorney:
1. Attorneys that have similar practices and collaborate with professionally are ideal
2. When permitted, physical time together like lunches, drinks, or conferences
3. Given today’s environment; virtual happy hours, and conferences
4. Use social media such as Linkin and guest post on each other’s blogs
Solo attorneys work hard to establish a practice and want to provide for their loved ones. Having a backup attorney is just one more step toward your estate plan that helps maintain the maximum value of the practice you have built.
Unfortunately, we have at least once a quarter a solo attorney that dies, with some being unexpected. The attorneys that have a plan have the best outcome for clients and loved ones.
Contact Me Today
Lee Norcross, MBA, CPCU
Managing Director, CEO
(616) 940-1101 Ext. 7080