The Professional Regulation Committee has launched a consultation process to obtain feedback on a recommendation from the Trustee Services Working Group to implement a mandatory succession planning requirement for licensees in private practice. The proposed plan includes the development of mandatory succession planning criteria, the creation of supports and resources to assist licensees with succession planning, and reporting and enforcement requirements.
The Law Society encourages lawyers, paralegals, legal organizations, members of the public and others to read the recommendations as outlined in the Mandatory Succession Planning consultation report and participate in the consultation between now and November 30. Input from sole practitioners and licensees in small private practice firms is particularly crucial to this consultation.
When a licensee is suddenly or unexpectedly unable to practise law or provide legal services, clients with active matters may have their legal interests jeopardized. Court appearances may be missed, real estate deals may fail to close, immigration documents may not be filed and trust funds may be inaccessible, which may hold up pending matters.
"Having a succession plan makes good business sense and is in the public's interest. It is also in the best interest of the lawyer or paralegal," said Jacqueline Horvat, Treasurer of the Law Society of Ontario. "Having a succession or business continuity plan in place can greatly reduce the burden on the licensee or their loved ones to wind-up a business at a time when they are under great duress while also preserving the reputation of the practice."
The recommended succession plan requirement specifies information and adequate arrangements to allow for the handling of client property and management of the licensee's professional business and would include obtaining a successor licensee who could step in if the licensee is unable to work suddenly or unexpectedly.
A mandatory succession plan requirement would be supported by a full suite of resources to assist licensees with the creation of a succession plan, including a plan template, which if used and completed correctly, will ensure that the licensee's plan is in compliance with the requirement.
"We definitely need to hear from sole and small practitioners during this consultation. Their viewpoint is vital to development of this requirement," said Bencher Megan Shortreed, Chair of the Professional Regulation Committee. "We need to understand what those licensees feel is a reasonable succession plan requirement — what is feasible? What kind of supports and resources would be helpful? Please let us know."
The Law Society has not made any decisions about the structure or content of a mandatory succession plan and is open to the suggestions and feedback of all interested parties.
Those interested may respond to some or all of the questions in the consultation at LSO.ca/succession-planning.
Following the conclusion of the consultation, all input will be reviewed by the Professional Regulation Committee. The Committee will study the submissions and determine whether to make recommendations to Convocation.
The Law Society regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario in the public interest. The Law Society has a mandate to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario and to act in a timely, open and efficient manner.