Lawyers are steeped in the long tradition of simply “winding down” practices, essentially abandoning a valuable asset. Indeed, as pointed out by Michael Gerber in The E Myth Attorney: Why Most Legal Practices Don’t Work and What to Do About It book (co-authored with Sanford M. Fisch, J.D. and Robert Armstrong, J.D.), “..most legal practices are jobs for the attorneys who own them.” **
This paradigm survives in large part because of continued outdated attitudes, lack of training in business principles and the scarcity of guidance as to the sales process. Indeed, the concept remains in its nascent stages even though Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.17 established the ethical requirements for the sale of a practice over 30 years ago. Regulators in other parts of the world are yet more progressive. Even non-lawyers have been permitted to purchase law practices in Australia since 2007 and in the U.K. since 2011.
When asked to write a chapter for the second edition of the The Lawyers' Guide to Buying, Merging and Selling a Law Practice to be published by the ABA’s Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division, I jumped at the chance. My hope is to demonstrate to niche practitioners (if not general practitioners) that with the right mindset, education, effort and commitment, a law practice can be built to sell. I speak from personal experience as I have previously sold my interest in two separate practices.
The ABA has generously given me permission to allow my colleagues a “sneak preview” of the chapter. The 6700 word white paper “Selling a Niche Practice” is available FREE for download. Visit my website at www.thesharperlawyer.com and look for the blue FREE OFFER cyberbutton on the right.
As the research and writing of “Selling a Niche Practice” progressed, I realized that the work would be incomplete without the perspectives of others who had been involved in such a transaction. I contacted The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) for assistance - since that organization schooled me in solid practice building techniques beginning in 1995. Jennifer Price (COO of AAEPA) graciously arranged for me to conduct a group interview with the following members of the organization who had either bought or sold a practice: Larry Deason, Geoff Garrett, Mike O’Brien, Paul Kraft and Colleen Prosser. Co-founders Sanford M. Fisch and Robert Armstrong were also interviewed.
The whitepaper also reflects perspectives of the following professionals: Jan Copley (Practice Building Consultant - Atticus, Inc.), Roy Ginsburg, J.D. (Attorney coach), Cammie Hauser (Senior Practice Advisor - Atticus, Inc.) and Ed Poll (Coach and law firm management consultant). I also acknowledge the attorneys who agreed to be interviewed but did not want their identities revealed.