This is the fourth in a series of blogs on How to Practice in Estate Planning. I’ll sprinkle this series in among my typical timely blogs. This series is designed for attorneys who are currently practicing in another field and wish to transition to Estate Planning and Elder Law. However, many of the suggestions in this series will be equally applicable to a new attorney who is not transitioning from another area.
Step One was learning how to approach the practice of law as a business. Step Two was learning the basic substantive knowledge you need to practice in the estate planning area. Step Three is having forms upon which you can rely and a person or people whom you can consult for counsel. Step Four is avoiding analysis paralysis and actually applying what you’ve learned.
It is tempting to keep thinking about an issue ad infinitum. Sometimes it can be fun to do that…for a while. But, the practice of law is not an academic exercise; it is a business. (See Step One.) You’ve spent years in college and law school developing a foundation. You’ve built upon that and learned the basics of estate planning. So, now is the time to put your skills to use and to apply the substantive knowledge you’ve acquired. (See Step Two.) If you cannot figure out a solution to a problem or find an answer after researching the issue, additional research may prove of limited value. This is where having access to more senior counsel can be critical. (See Step Three.) There are some situations where a practical solution may be available, the answer to which may not appear in any book. There are some problems which an experienced practitioner may be able to answer off the top of their head. At first, it is normal to want to check in with your senior counsel as a safety net. But, quickly you should be confidant in your own solutions and conclusions on the vast majority of items.
Analysis paralysis, at its core, is insecurity. You don’t trust your abilities and therefore you keep researching and keep toying with an issue. You can do that a little, but keep yourself on a short leash. If you cannot find an answer or solution within a reasonable period of time, it’s time to reach out to your senior counsel.
Ideally, you will gain confidence in your own skills after the path you think you should take is confirmed by your senior counsel in a few instances.
Remember, thinking about an issue is ok, but obsessing over a decision is not. After you’ve done your due diligence, make a decision and move on!
In the next blog in the series I’ll discuss the importance of joining local chapters and attending local events.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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