This blog post is to inform my readers that, beginning this year 2022, I am reducing substantially my trust and estate litigation practice. I am returning to a greater concentration on trust and estate planning, including flat-fee options for less costly, more-basic estate plans for certain clients who do not need the most complex planning available, and its inevitable higher fees. I will still handle complex planning, particularly for trusts, but will recommend simpler estate plans when appropriate.
Below are some observations that touch on my decision to return more fully to the above planning:
One. I admit I enjoy litigation, almost too much. [Ask my wife.] I love the aggressive warfare, complexity, strategy, the uncertainty, and the Sun Tzu “The Art of War” psychological aspects of the challenge. I thoroughly enjoy fighting opposing lawyers. But, after the past 15-years of intense litigation, I would like to see what life is like (both at the office and at home) without the effects on me of this constant warfare (and how the absence of this persistent aggression might play into a novel, interesting chapter both in my personal and professional life). I realize also I am simply not capable of handling litigation without my enjoyment of a heavy expenditure of aggression.
Two. Now that I have a few years (5 years) experience as a smaller-firm lawyer, it finally dawned on me that my previous 20+ years in the large law firm environment, at least for me, fueled a kind of intellectual pride that prevented me from being open to the notion of recommending simpler planning for clients, at least as an option. In a large firm setting, lawyers are understandably very proud of the elevated status and scope of their legal knowledge, and a large firm gives them an excellent platform in which to implement the most complex planning available, with the concomitant collection of larger fees. Simplicity does not invite accolades within a large law firm, and can be perceived as signalling laziness or lack of intellectual sophistication, etc. In other words, for many years for my estate planning work I had a great deal of pride in being able to demonstrate to my clients and my law partners the depth and complexity of my legal knowledge. This complex approach worked very well for the right kind of clients; but, not all clients need this vast level of unbridled complexity.
Three. The most important observation, however, is that it is the depth and complexity of a lawyer’s knowledge that can, or should, enable the lawyer to recommend simpler options, if simpler options are suitable for a particular client. A simpler option, in certain instances, may well be in the best interest of the client, but not in the best pecuniary interest of the lawyer. I also have said for years that an estate plan in which I am able to throw in every conceivable, complex feature and option is, in my experience, easier work than having to exercise judgment for designing and implementing a simpler plan. A simpler plan, ideally, requires that a lawyer be very well versed with the most complex planning so as to exercise good judgment as to when, and how, simpler options are suitable for a client.
Four. I will continue to keep up with all the latest estate and trust developments, including my yearly CLE attendance at the highly-informative University of Miami Law School “Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning”, so as to stay fully in the loop with the latest, complex planning options.