6 Key Ingredients For New Solo Estate Planners

Many Mentor Legal Drafting courses have been offered since 2009. In that time I have had the opportunity to meet many students who are new to estate planning, some attorneys who are transitioning from other areas of the law and others who may be recently admitted to practice. We have all been their once.

In the course of a 20 hour CLE class many questions surface unrelated to the technical components of estate planning law. The questions usually relate to what a person needs to do to gain mastery of the subject, become competent and start building a practice.

So here goes – here are six ingredients that I think are key.

  1. Find a Mentor  –  As you build your practice, find out if there is a local mentor who you can consult with on cases. This is one of the quickest ways to jump start your knowledge base.There is no better way to learn than working on a  real case you are getting paid for. You will take a bit of a financial hit initially, but the investment will be well worth it. In my experience, many attorneys who assume a mentor ship role will reduce their hourly rates. And I have found you get more focused and better advice if you are paying for it.
  2. Gorge On Learning – Get into the subject! The more you know the better. Go to as many lectures and CLE classes as you possibly can. Bar Associations, estate planning councils, financial institutions, law schools and private CLE vendors all put on numerous estate planning courses throughout the year. In the Bay Area there are a ton! Some courses can be an hour long, others can be a number of of days. Quite a few years back I went to a one week estate planning boot camp at Emory University put on by the ALI-ABA and Jeffrey Pennell. I learned so much in those five days!
  3. Join a Study Group – There are many attorneys who form study groups with peers. These can take various forms but in my experience they average around 7-10 members and sometimes may include a CPA, CLU and other estate planning professionals. In one that I was involved with, we met once a month and each member took turns presenting a “Hot Topic” every month. The best part of the hour (usually at lunch – you need to eat right!) was the discussion after the presentation. See if you can get into an existing one (ask your mentor) or form your own!
  4. Get Involved with your local or state bar associations –  Try getting involved with the probate or estate planning sections. They are always looking for committee members. It’s a  great way to get your name out there, network and learn form others.
  5. Build Templates –  Try to build as much infrastructure as you can within your practice. What do I mean? Build templates for your wills and trusts and other estate planning documents, your engagement letters, your disengagement letters,  your funding documents (i.e., deeds and PCORS, etc.) the full spectrum of letters to your clients. Customize of course, but don’t reinvent the wheel!
  6. Get Your Name Out There – Give some talks on estate planning to parent groups, your church, constituents of local nonprofits, etc. Let friends, family, other attorneys and business acquaintances know that you are an estate planner. You’ll get referrals eventually, trust me! Also join your local estate planning council. It’s good for other estate planners to know who you are!   

Hope this was worthwhile – anybody out there??

Whoa!! – 11:35 pm and I have to work tomorrow at 7!  Over and out.