It is no secret that our population is aging. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, persons 65 years or older numbered 39.6 million in 2009 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 12.9% of the U.S. population, about one in every eight Americans. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000. People 65+ represented 12.4% of the population in the year 2000 but are expected to grow to be 19% of the population by 2030. Along with the aging population, and a struggling economy, is an aging workforce in all sectors.
The aging population of lawyers presents a particular set of issues. Older lawyers have years of experience that make them among the best in the business, but also can face disabilities that can be sudden and dramatic, or slow and hidden. These disabilities create a real legal malpractice and professional liability risk. In 2005, the National Organization of Bar Counsel and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers appointed a Joint Committee on Aging Lawyers to study the challenges raised by aging lawyers and propose solutions and best practices for attorney grievance committees, bar associations, courts and the Bar. Among the important suggestions by the joint committee is that solo practitioners designate “successor” attorneys, to step in to their practices and protect clients in the event of their death or incapacity.