There are myriad types of emergencies that can result in an interruption to your practice: theft, fire, natural disaster, illness, suspension, etc. Careful planning is needed to ensure that you can continue to meet your client obligations in any such circumstances. Lawyers have a duty to provide thorough, competent, and timely service to their clients. Thus, planning for absence or loss, rather than merely reacting to it, is essential. As well, lawyers’ professional responsibilities make addressing certain issues mandatory.
Rule 2302 of the Law Society Rules specifically requires that each lawyer have a written succession plan that will allow their practice to either carry on or wind up in the event of the lawyers’ temporary disability, long-term disability or death. In addition to client files, a succession plan needs to deal with trust and other accounts and funds. You can find more information and guidelines for succession planning in Succession Planning (Rule 2302).
Where a practice interruption arises from disability, incapacity or other matter that interferes with a lawyer’s ability to provide competent representation to a client, section 3.7-7 of the Code of Conduct requires withdrawal. Section 3.7-8 requires that when withdrawal occurs, you must minimize expense and prejudice to the client and do all things to facilitate an orderly transfer of the file to other counsel. Although the commentary in the Code does not specifically speak to circumstances of withdrawal based on incapacity or similar issues, a professionally responsible lawyer will attempt to meet these obligations by advance planning for such possibilities.