• April 21, 2017

Scott Richardson, a third-generation Austin, Minnesota lawyer, is turning 70 years old this year and he’s retiring from the practice of law. He wrote about the experience in the April issue of Bench and Bar, the Minnesota State Bar Association magazine¬†and gave his fellow solo/small firm lawyers valuable and practical information, difficult if not impossible to find anywhere else.

But it might be difficult reading for a solo or small firm lawyer. Mr. Richardson’s article goes through the tedious, time-consuming, expensive, and risky process of “winding up,” the return of client files, the transfer of client matters, the things that solo and small firm lawyers have to deal with (more or less by themselves) and large law firm (or in-house lawyers) don’t. Mr. Richardson describes the postal expense, the shredding expense, the storage expense, and the issue of malpractice insurance coverage in years following retirement…

All work and no pay. No retirement party. No gold watch.

Mr. Richardson’s article is a service to all of us, as he goes through the details of winding up. Here, linked, is his letter to clients describing what he plans to do with client files.

The non-compete commitment that Mr. Richardson signed in consideration of the substitute firm’s agreement to take Mr. Richardson’s files is linked here. (Presumably the uncertainty of the enforceability of a lawyer’s non-competition agreement is irrelevant because Mr. Richardson won’t be practicing anymore.)

The future of solo/small firm lawyer practice nationwide has never been as foreboding and ominous as it is right now.

On the one hand, on-line DIY resources like LegalZoom, Standard Legal, Rocket Lawyer gobble up the solo/small law firms’ simple, routine, “bread and butter” work.

And “being the only lawyer in town” means much less than it used to, since, thanks to the internet, rural clients can now work with far-flung lawyers.

And, on the other extreme, larger legal matters (transactional or litigation) demand a minimum of infrastructure (for example, an IT department) that solo and small firm lawyers cannot afford.

In short, it might be excellent timing for Mr. Richardson’s retirement.

We thank him, wish him luck, and a long restful retirement.

As for the rest of us still in the trenches, in the words of Coldplay, “Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be so hard…”

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