Home Business Services Succession planning is key to ward off the unexpected

Succession planning is key to ward off the unexpected

John Howe

West Yorkshire-based law firm, John Howe & Co, is flagging up the importance of succession planning – highlighting that a business can be hit catastrophically if it does not have someone to take over if the unexpected happens.

John Howe said: “It is vital that businesses have a plan in place to ensure that the transition from the old guard to the new is seamless and that clients, while they will have to be made aware of the change, do not notice any disruptions to the level of service.

“This becomes even more of a priority when significant individuals at a firm reach a stage in their life where retirement starts to become an attractive option.”

This topic is close to John’s heart as he has reached the age where he is considering stepping back from the business, which provides legal services to private individuals and businesses across a wide range of sectors.

However, he is finding it easier said than done because of the way legal courses are taught these days.

He said: “The profession, currently being led by the larger commercial firms, is presently turning out a future generation of solicitors whose legal knowledge is limited to a very narrow sphere of law or, indeed, in only one area.

“I have found, however, that life and the challenges that it often brings do not always fall within such a small remit and as such a number of solicitors have to be used to advise on one potential problem.”

John cites the example of divorce, which can involve family law, child custody issues, financial settlements, employment and corporate scenarios and potential property sales.

He says, this could mean a client ending up with several different solicitors, not always at the same firm, dealing with the various aspects of the case, rather than having one point of contact, who understands the case inside out and can handle all the elements as they arise.

During the years John Howe and Co has bucked this trend and ensured that its solicitors can advise on a number of different areas of law for this very reason.

It is what is known as a general practice, where all the legal team can handle a wide variety of legal issues and litigation.

John added: “The justification for the emphasis on specialisation appears to be just that so solicitors can become specialist in a particular field. However, as with most things there are advantages and disadvantages, and at the moment there does not appear to any consideration of the disadvantages.

“The trend for narrowing what would be solicitors learn is a retrograde step, not only from how efficiently and cost-effectively a law practice is run, but I would argue, from a job satisfaction point of view too.

“This is my personal experience, but many other sectors will have their own challenges when it comes to succession planning which is why it is worth considering well in advance.”

John Howe and Co’s ability to deal with a range of instructions has seen it develop into some interesting and unusual areas of law with a broad client base which is not only nationwide wide but also abroad. It has been involved in many high-profile cases including obtaining the fastest divorce in England in legal history.

It is only one of two firms currently recommended by the Law Society to assist in the purchase of Bulgarian property for individuals and developers and to be involved in litigation cases abroad.