Why Texas Lawyers Need to Designate Custodian Attorneys

Published on June 5, 2023 Law Practice Management Featured Succession Planning

Death is a fact of life. While it can be a sobering thought, it’s necessary for lawyers to have a plan in place so everyone is prepared. This is where custodian attorneys come into play.

When a lawyer unexpectedly dies, disappears, or becomes physically, mentally, or emotionally disabled and cannot provide the legal services necessary to protect clients’ best interests, a custodian attorney can help to bridge the gap.

Should you suddenly die without a plan in place, your law practice will be at cessation. Cessation of Practice is regulated in Part XIII of the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure. Without a plan, things can get complicated quickly. Your family—amid their grieving—may have to deal with your disgruntled clients.

In some cases, your clients may even be furious. They placed their trust in your hands and now you won’t return their calls. With hearings fast approaching and radio silence from you, your clients may try to find you. They may drive to your house and speak with your family, demanding that they release the client’s full file. In some instances, disgruntled clients may become volatile on social media, spreading negative, untrue rumors all because their attorney hasn’t returned their calls. Your family shouldn’t have to deal with these scenarios. It may sound farfetched, but it happens more often than you might expect.

You can avoid this by designating a custodian attorney. Do it for your family, your clients, colleagues, staff, and the courts. Don’t leave your life’s work up to chance; both you and your practice deserve better.

How to Designate a Custodian Attorney

While it may sound like a lofty, difficult undertaking, the State Bar of Texas has made the process of designating a custodian attorney as easy and straightforward as possible. For emergency management and client protection, simply follow this link to designate a custodian now. You can also read more about the process here.

The entire process takes just a few minutes. At the online portal, simply state your choice of colleague and click SELECT. This will prompt an email to your designated attorney. They can accept or decline the designation. Upon accepting, your colleague signifies their current willingness to serve as a custodian attorney, if needed. You can also designate alternate custodians if you wish.

What to Expect from a Custodian Attorney

It’s crucial to point out the fact that a custodian attorney will not “take over” representation of your clients or “assume” your law practice. Simply put, a custodian attorney assists in the winding down of a lawyer’s practice, if needed.

The principal objectives of custodianship include:

  • Access to client files
  • Notice to clients and others that the lawyer has ceased practice
  • Client direction on where the client wants the file to go
  • Return of client property

Designate a Custodian Attorney Today

It only takes about three minutes to designate a custodian attorney. If you’ve made it this far simply click this link to designate your custodian. Don’t let this day go by  without designating a custodian. Once you complete the process, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your practice and your family will be cared for in the event of your passing.

Look for Law Practice Management’s Succession Planning Toolkit — Coming Soon!

The arc of a lawyer’s law practice eventually ends. Ideally, the lawyer is ready and the transition from practice goes according to plan. The State Bar of Texas Law Practice Management sector is currently working on a Succession Planning Toolkit that covers Advance Designation of Custodian Attorney, File Management, Cessation of Practice Procedure, and Transition Planning. Keep an eye out for our toolkit so you can plan for the future of your practice accordingly!


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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