As we approach the end of the financial year and the practising certificate renewal season, many practitioners may be evaluating the future of their legal practice; their desire to pursue other opportunities, and their future plans generally.
For some, a decision may be made to close their practice and pursue a different career path, join another legal practice, or retire. While this can be a difficult decision, there are steps that can be taken to ensure a smooth transition for both the practitioner and their clients.
Closing your practice can be a challenging task, and if you plan to do so before the end of the current financial year, you will need to act promptly.
Ideally, the decision to close your practice would be made six to 12 months in advance so you have plenty of time to meet your ethical, legal and tax obligations.
The QLS Ethics and Practice Centre has several resources available to assist practitioners with closing their practice. The recently updated Closing a Law Practice Checklist is a key reference tool to guide you in the process.
The first step is to consider the implications of closing your law firm.
Do you just need a holiday, or do you feel that you are now in a position to permanently move on from your practice? If you close your practice, what is your next step?
Sometimes, health and finances play a large part in deciding to close your practice. For decisions that might feel forced upon you, reaching out to a colleague or LawCare for assistance navigating the transitional period is important.
Next, do a thorough review of all your current matters. Are your file records in order and up to date? The use of appropriate records management systems can ensure client matters and records are accurate and up to date.
Client & QLS notifications
Inform clients, referrers, and suppliers of the decision to close the practice. It is important to do this well in advance of the closure date to allow clients ample time to make alternative arrangements for their legal representation.
The legal practitioner should provide clear instructions to clients on how to obtain their files and safe custody documents – consider what authorities and verification of identity processes need to be followed.
Queensland Law Society must be notified of the intention to close. It is also important to contact the QLS Trust Accounts team for guidance on how to manage this process if you hold a trust account.
Closing a law practice of files
Another important consideration is the disposition of archived client files and other property. If those files are not being collected by the client and no arrangement has been made with another legal practice to store and manage those records, the legal practitioner must ensure that all client files are properly secured and stored, and they should advise the Society of those storage arrangements.
Closing a legal practice can be a difficult decision, but with careful planning and execution, this can be done smoothly and with minimal disruption to your clients. The steps outlined in the updated Closing a Law Practice Checklist, can assist practitioners in meeting their ethical and professional obligations.
If you have any questions about the steps involved in closing your legal practice, the Practice Advisory Service is a complimentary service offered to Queensland Law Society members. Our solicitors have years of experience running their own practices and are able to provide guidance in essential areas of practice management.
For more information or to book a practice visit, contact the QLS Ethics and Practice Centre on 07 3842 5843 or email email@example.com.