Herb Dubin never thought he’d get sick.
The Rockville solo practitioner had always been in great health and had a strict no-doctors policy. But when he’d had the same painful cough for three months in March 2008, his wife diagnosed a cracked rib and made him go to the hospital for an X-ray.
Her insistence saved his life. He had double pneumonia and a nasty bacterial infection, which landed him in the hospital for 12 days and kept him out of the office for more than a month after that.
Dubin had no plan for what would happen to his practice if he were incapacitated.
“Does the shoemaker ever take care of his own shoes?” said Dubin, whose practice includes personal injury, legal malpractice and attorney discipline defense, criminal defense and commercial litigation.The other solos with whom he shares an office swooped in and kept things running until he got back, but he can’t imagine what would have happened had they not been there.
“The bottom line was, I just happened to be sharing space with a good bunch of guys,” he said. “Suppose I was practicing the way a lot of new, young lawyers are: from my house, by myself.”
Experts say too few solo and small-firm lawyers have made plans for what will happen to their practice if they suddenly get sick. Not planning can leave attorneys open to malpractice claims or the loss of money and clients.
“We’re trying to get attorneys to think about this more often so that they plan for retirement and plan for absences due to illness or the like, because these things happen,” said Maryland Bar Counsel Melvin Hirshman, whose office sometimes has to pick up the pieces of a practice when a lawyer fails to plan.
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When Solo Lawyers Get Sick