Given the Halloween festivities last month, we have had a (fake) skeleton in our front yard for weeks. I am removing it today, as I publicly announce the closing of my estate planning practice to new clients as of January 1, 2014. The irony is fitting to me, even if it is graveyard humor. Instead, I plant new seeds to sow, as I detail at the end of this post.
What I Am No Longer Doing
I am no longer taking new estate planning clients from the general public as of January 1, 2014 for comprehensive planning, including wills, advance directives, powers of attorney and guardianship paperwork.
At some point years down the road, when I am even older and grayer (when I’m 64?), my practice may reopen. At the current time I plan to focus greater efforts on other areas of law (see below). In the meantime, I am forever grateful for those clients who have entrusted me with their life and end-of-life plans, and I will continue to work with them on any current matters.
I expect this question often – Why are you closing your estate planning practice?
There are a whole host of reasons. and I certainly cannot cover all of them here. Most importantly, I launched the practice after leaving the hedge fund world, without a big idea of where I would aim from there (a tactical failure, I realize) but knowing I wanted to start a law firm of my own, do greater “good” and seek lifestyle balance. I knew that I loved practicing law. I did not realize how much I actually loved corporate law, business and contract issues or appreciate how much good I could do for my clients as a corporate attorney. Now, eighteen months into private practice after seven years with a single client (the firm at which I was in-house), I have had the diversity of experience that allows me to be a better judge of myself, my talents and what I can contribute to the legal community and public in general.
Unfortunately, much of estate planning today is formulaic, other than the advanced tax planning, which is not a practice one can launch overnight. This is evidenced by how often I am marketed products to “revolutionize” and “streamline” my estate planning practice by buying out-of-the-box solutions. At the same time, there are serious, compassionate issues to be addressed, but given the economics of estate planning for regular folks, there is never enough time to do that and run a viable practice.
What I May Do Instead on the Estate Planning Front (Short or Long Term)
I am blessed and thankful to have had the opportunity to work as an estate planner for over a year, and I met a number of very caring and devoted individuals in the field as well as wonderful clients. I may continue to offer very limited private consultations and referrals and work with a select number of individuals on portions of plans that make sense for them in the context of my other legal work.
In particular, I may re-envision my estate planning practice as one of teaching and consulting, rather than drafting of documents. How this plays out in the short and long term, and interacts with my legal practice generally, remains to be seen.
In addition, I have developed an interest in living wills, in particular, and their limitations in the State of Connecticut. As one client of mine (who happens to be a devout Catholic) said, in our state they are almost drafted as a “right to die” rather than a right to choice. If you have not considered this issue, take a look at our standard advance directive (click here) with that thought in mind.
I may consider becoming involved in advocacy work that relates to this issue, again in the short or long term, although I need to better understand how the legislature and others would react to yet another overhaul in Connecticut following the revisions in 2006. For example, I have read and re-read the standard forms in New Jersey (click here) while working with a number of clients, and they offer people much more choices and subtleties of choice. I have not formulated an opinion about whether living will standards should be harmonized among some or all states or simply broadened (in the case of Connecticut) to fit a greater diversity of options. I would welcome the input of others who have thought about this issue longer and harder than me, and I would also welcome the opportunity to share my thoughts with individuals who are already working in this area.
My Law Practice
So back to the seeds to be sown. Or, more fittingly, the plant to be pruned. I am excited about the possibilities that come with narrowing my practice areas to broaden and deepen my scope within those areas. I am also excited and thankful for my clients in those areas, who have shown great faith in me as their attorney.
Along with my core corporate practice and my federal trademark work, representation of non-profits is an area of growth and delight for my firm. I mention compassion above, as I have found that I am a better attorney and advocate, as well as a more peaceful person, when I believe in the individuals and causes I represent. While non-profit organizations certainly do not have the corner on the market of worthy causes, I probably do not need to tell you that they are critical actors in our collective goal of a better world.
Lest some readers try to categorize non-profit work as soft, this does not mean that I won’t show my “tough skin” on behalf of clients (for-profit and non-profit alike) in a high-stakes negotiation. Seven years in the hedge fund world taught me quite a bit of how to wield that sword when needed, and those hard-won lessons will never be forgotten. But at the same time, I find that having an open heart, with a tough skin, is the best way to serve clients.
My particular areas of interest in the non-profit world include:
- art (visual or otherwise),
- support for rape or domestic violence survivors,
- combating hunger, or
- any combination of the above.
Strong and Committed Practice