How to Hire a Business Succession Planning Attorney

Business Succession Planning Attorney

Planning for business succession is a complex and critical process for any company owner. Bringing in an experienced business succession planning attorney can help you navigate the legal intricacies involved and develop an effective plan that meets your goals. However, hiring the right attorney takes research and preparation.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key steps of finding, vetting and hiring the ideal business succession planning attorney for your specific needs.

Understanding Business Succession Planning

Before diving into the attorney hiring process, it’s important to have a basic grasp of what business succession planning entails.

Simply put, business succession planning involves developing a strategy to transfer ownership and leadership of a company to a new party. This is usually necessitated by life events like retirement, illness or death of the current owner.

A proper business succession plan aims to:

  • Ensure a smooth leadership transition with minimal disruption to operations.
  • Transfer company ownership in a tax-efficient manner.
  • Divide assets equitably amongst stakeholders like partners, shareholders, family members etc.
  • Set clear procedures for valuation and sale of the company.
  • Establish exit strategies for exiting owners.

Developing such a multifaceted plan requires expertise in areas like business law, estate planning, taxation, finance, valuation and conflict resolution. An experienced attorney can leverage their knowledge across these domains to create a customized succession plan for your business.

Key Attorney Qualities to Look For

Key Attorney Qualities to Look For

When vetting potential attorneys, keep an eye out for these indicators of proficiency in business succession planning:

Niche Experience

Look for someone who specializes specifically in business succession law, rather than just general corporate or estate planning. They should have in-depth expertise in succession-related issues like gifting interests, shareholder agreements, tax implications, business valuations etc.


Seek out attorneys accredited as Certified Business Succession Planners (CBSP) by the International Institute for Business Succession Planning. The CBSP credential indicates advanced knowledge and training in this field.

Comprehensive Skill Set

Business succession planning straddles multiple legal domains. Prefer an attorney well-versed in realms like corporate governance, taxation, estate planning, conflict resolution and valuation. Cross-disciplinary knowledge is key.

Familiarity with Your Industry

An attorney experienced with your specific industry will better grasp your business model, structure, regulations etc. This helps them tailor the succession plan appropriately.

Satisfied Past Clients

Verify if the attorney has a proven track record of developing effective succession plans for other companies similar to yours. Ask for references from past clients.

Personable Style

This is a complex personal and professional process. Seek out an attorney who is a good cultural fit, with a communicative, compassionate approach.

Where to Find Business Succession Attorneys

Utilize these resources to find seasoned attorneys with the right expertise:

  • State Bar Association Referrals – Most state bar associations have attorney referral services, including succession planning lawyers.
  • Professional Networks – Connect with business succession focused groups like the Beyster Institute’s Family Business Forum to find referrals.
  • University Networks – Contact business and law schools in your area for faculty recommendations.
  • Certification Directories – Search for CBSP certified attorneys through the International Institute for Business Succession Planning.
  • Client References – Ask advice from entrepreneurs who have created succession plans.
  • Law Firm Databases – Major law firm directories like Martindale Hubbell allow attorney searches by specialization.
  • Online Listings – Use Google, Yelp, Avvo to find succession planning attorneys in your locale. Vet online reviews carefully.

Interview Questions to Ask Prospective Attorneys

Interview Questions to Ask Prospective Attorneys

Once you have a list of potential candidates, set up exploratory consultations. Prepare open-ended questions to gauge their qualifications and approach. Key questions include:

  • Walk me through how you have structured succession plans for other companies similar to mine.
  • What experience do you have working with my specific industry and business model?
  • Which attorneys and subject matter experts do you work with to develop comprehensive succession plans?
  • How do you ensure all stakeholder interests and perspectives are considered?
  • What resources and tools do you utilize when assessing business value?
  • What is your process for developing and finalizing the technical aspects like gifting strategies, share transfers, tax mitigation etc?
  • How do you ensure the succession plan complies fully with state and federal regulations?
  • What is your approach for communicating and getting buy-in from all stakeholders?
  • How do you help manage disputes or resistance that may arise during implementation?
  • What are some unique challenges you have navigated in the past?
  • May I have 2 to 3 references from past clients with succession plans you have developed?

Vetting a Shortlist of Attorneys

Once initial interviews are complete, narrow down the prospects. Conduct thorough due diligence.

Verify Credentials

Validate that the attorney has active licensure and a clean disciplinary record. Confirm any special certifications like the CBSP.

Check Casework

Ask to review redacted cases and succession plans they have developed. Ensure their past work matches the complexity of your needs.

Do Reference Checks

Speak with 2 to 3 of their former clients. Inquire about their experience collaborating with the attorney.

Review Online

Search for client testimonials and online reviews. Look for any concerning complaints or negative feedback.

Compare Cost

Get fee structure estimates from shortlisted attorneys. Compare hourly rates and project costs.

Confirm Availability

Assess if the attorney has capacity for your project amid current obligations.

Assess Communication Style

Ensure your communication styles align smoothly, with clarity and transparency.

Key Elements to Address in a Business Succession Attorney Agreement

Once you select an attorney, draw up a detailed engagement agreement. This provides clarity on the scope of services, deliverables, fees, confidentiality, and other mutual expectations. Essential elements to address:

  • Services Covered: Specify exactly what services the attorney will provide – developing the succession plan, related filings and documentation, valuation, mediation etc.
  • Deliverables: Define documents, reports, tools etc. the attorney will provide, along with timelines.
  • Fees: Establish project fees and billing structure – hourly, fixed price etc. Include payment schedules and expense reimbursement terms.
  • Scope Changes: State how additional needs outside of the original scope will be addressed and billed.
  • Reporting Structure: Outline how and how frequently the attorney will provide status updates and get approvals.
  • Confidentiality: Include strong confidentiality provisions to protect business information.
  • Term and Termination: Set an engagement term and termination provisions in case either party ends the relationship.
  • IP Rights: Clarify who owns intellectual property like documents and tools created during the engagement.
  • Dispute Resolution: Define how disputes will be mediated, including potential arbitration clauses.

Having a well-drafted agreement sets clear expectations and responsibilities on both sides, for a smoother engagement.

Maintaining Open Communication

Frequent and transparent communication ensures proper collaboration with your business succession planning attorney.

  • Have regular status meetings to discuss progress, issues, and next steps.Monthly or biweekly is ideal.
  • Involve the attorney in relevant internal discussions with partners, shareholders etc. early on.
  • Provide complete rather than piecemeal information to help them build a full picture.
  • Be candid about any sensitive internal dynamics, family politics or interpersonal matters.
  • Ensure the attorney explains technical concepts clearly to all stakeholders.
  • Define a clear hierarchy and point person internally for liaising with the attorney.
  • Provide timely feedback and course-correct if the engagement veers off track.
  • Have your attorney explain your rights and obligations around important decisions.
  • Keep communicating even after the succession plan is implemented for periodic reviews and modifications.

Fostering open, patient and consistent dialogue with your business succession planning attorney is key to an effective partnership.

Plan Ahead to Hire Your Successor Attorney in Advance

Plan Ahead to Hire business succession planning attorney in Advance

Ideally, bring your chosen attorney on board 1 to 2 years prior to your envisioned succession date. This gives sufficient lead time to develop and execute a thoughtful strategy.

It also avoids a common mistake – heirs scrambling to hire an attorney reactively during a turbulent transition. This can result in costly errors.

Securing experienced counsel ahead of time brings multiple advantages:

  • Your attorney understands your business and specific needs better.
  • You can take advantage of tax and gifting strategies that require long runways.
  • Crucial valuations and appraisals can be done more accurately.
  • Any internal conflicts can be resolved before succession.
  • All aspects from owner exits to leadership transitions can be structured seamlessly.
  • Documentation and filings are prepared completely beforehand.

While a bit more upfront effort, hiring a business succession attorney well in advance pays off when you need a smooth transition.


Hiring the right business succession planning attorney is a process that requires due diligence across several steps:

  • Seeking referrals from trusted professional networks and client references.
  • Interviewing prospective attorneys to assess niche expertise.
  • Vetting credentials, experience, communication style and fees.
  • Being highly selective to find a specialized fit.
  • Establishing clear scopes, expectations and terms in an engagement agreement.
  • Maintaining frequent and open communication throughout the process.
  • Onboarding your chosen attorney 1-2 years prior to your succession target date.

Investing the time into this process helps ensure you find and collaborate successfully with a knowledgeable attorney. They become a valued partner in structuring and implementing the ideal succession plan for your unique business needs and goals.

With the right counsel secured well in advance, you can have confidence in a smooth ownership and leadership transition that provides stability for your business’ future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does hiring a business succession attorney cost?

A: Costs vary based on experience, location, scope of services and project complexity. On average, expect to budget $15,000 to $30,000+ for a comprehensive succession plan. Define fees upfront in your engagement agreement.

Q: When should I bring the attorney into discussions with partners/shareholders?

A: Early in the process – don’t wait until major conflicts arise. Involving them from the outset allows them to mediate any issues proactively.

Q: What qualifications should I request from attorney candidates?

A: Ask for specific examples of succession plans developed, including references from past clients. Confirm credentials like CBSP certification. Review casework and online reviews.

Q: How can I estimate the time needed for succession planning?

A: Most plans take 1-2 years from hiring your attorney to full implementation. Complex, multi-partner transitions often take closer to 2 years. Build in buffers.

Q: What happens if there is a dispute with my attorney?

A: Reference the dispute resolution terms in your engagement agreement – often mediation followed by arbitration if unresolved. Changing counsel mid-process should be a last resort.

Stéphane is the founder of, a comparison service for traders. helps traders compare 20 Forex and CFD brokers in one place, through guides, reviews and comparison tables. These brokers include familiar names like AvaTrade, FxPro, FP Markets and eToro. Some of Stéphane’s first ventures were focussed on online dating, before pivoting towards affiliate marketing in the financial services space.