The Succession Planning Toolkit: A Closer Look

Published on December 18, 2023 Law Practice Tips

The Succession Planning Toolkit from the State Bar of Texas was created by the Law Practice Management committee in an effort to make succession and transition planning as streamlined as possible for Texas lawyers

By now, we’re hoping you’ve already heard about the toolkit, but have you taken the time to see what it has to offer?

Succession planning can be quite a daunting topic. In this blog post, we’ll briefly highlight what each section of the toolkit entails. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to succession planning, so if you see a topic that interests you, feel free to take a deeper dive.

What’s Inside the Succession Planning Toolkit?

The Succession Planning Toolkit is broken down into four main sections:

  1. Advance Designation of Custodian-Attorney
  2. File Management
  3. Cessation of Practice Procedure
  4. Transition Planning

These sections follow the trajectory of succession, from the simplest to the most complex. The toolkit is broken down by level of importance and difficulty. To view the clickable Succession Planning Toolkit graphic, click here.

Start by Designating a Custodian: The Easiest, Most Important Step

When it comes to succession planning, the first step is the most important one to take. With the help of the toolkit, it’s also the easiest one. If you do nothing else today, designate a custodian-attorney. You can do so in as little as three minutes.

Click here to designate a custodian-attorney.

Remember, custodian-attorneys won’t be “inheriting” the law practice. They serve in a more limited role to help wind down the practice.

Advance Designation of Custodian-Attorney

Online Portal

By going to the State Bar of Texas’ Advance Designation of a Custodian-Attorney online portal, you can read more about the process, access forms, and volunteer to be appointed as a custodian-attorney. If you already have someone in mind for this role, you can fill out the electronic designation form by clicking here.

Remember, a custodian-attorney does not take over your firm. They simply assist in the winding down of your practice in the event need arises under Part XIII of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure. Once you input their name and contact information, your job is done. Your custodian-attorney will receive an email with the necessary information.

You can also volunteer to serve as a court-appointed custodian-attorney. If this interests you, fill out the form here.

Rule 13.04

Previously we mentioned how a custodian-attorney does not take over your practice. This is based on Texas Rules Disciplinary P.R. 13.04 which allows for voluntary appointment of custodian-attorneys with similar liability protection.

Simply put, a 13.04 custodian won’t become the new lawyer for your clients. In fact, if the custodian-attorney steps in to represent your client, “the lawyer’s role as custodian terminates, and the lawyer’s actions are subject to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct regarding the client-lawyer relationship.”

To learn more about Rule 13.04, click here.

File Management

In Texas, files generally belong to the client, but there is no rule regarding how long a lawyer must keep files. You can begin by contacting clients to agree on file retention and destruction. You can transition from paper to digital files. Thin the volume by screening old, closed files and make sure to cull “attorney’s eyes only” content as well.

The files can either be returned, stored, or destroyed. Each option requires its own steps to be considered complete. The toolkit provides guidance for each option, so you won’t be at a loss. If you cannot find the client, you can either deposit the original files with the applicable county or make a report to the Texas Comptroller regarding funds in the lawyer’s trust account for which the lawyer is unable to identify or locate the owner.

For a deeper look into this step, check out the File Management section of the Succession Planning Toolkit. You can also click on the links below to learn more about each specific category:

Cessation of Practice Procedure

When it comes to cessation of practice, each situation is unique. As such, it may be in your best interest to seek guidance from the court. Since the procedure rests primarily on Part XIII of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, it’s in your best interest to become acquainted with the mechanics of Rule 13.01 of the TRDP.

Whether you’re a court-appointed custodian or a colleague chose you as their custodian-attorney, you’ll be able to find information regarding cessation of practice procedure within the Succession Planning Toolkit. You can also click here on the links below to learn more about each specific topic found within the cessation of practice procedure section.

Transition Planning: What Every Lawyer Needs to Know

The final section of the Succession Planning Toolkit serves as an in-depth overview of succession and transition planning. It breaks down what each lawyer should consider when the question of transitioning their practice arises. It covers everything from what has to be done to ensure password access to the process of selling a practice for profit. Each subtopic is compiled below:

The Succession Planning Toolkit is the Go-To Guide for Texas Lawyers

Whether you’re designating a custodian-attorney, or you’d like to learn more about succession planning, the Succession Planning Toolkit can provide the guidance you need. We recommend bookmarking the main page so the toolkit can always be easily accessible with the click of a button.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the Succession Planning Toolkit, feel free to contact the State Bar’s Law Practice Management department via email at

Texas Bar Practice

Texas Bar Practice

Texas Bar Practice works with the most experienced and knowledgeable judges and attorneys to prepare and edit books, practice manuals, and legal forms to help lawyers and judges better serve the public with professional, accurate, and timely information.

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