Trust and estate planning may no longer be in the wheelhouse of larger law firms. Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a prominent international firm, is the latest to drop its trusts and estates practice group. The prevailing thought behind this decision is that Debevoise’s trusts and estates department simply didn’t bring in the same amount of new business and corresponding revenue as its corporate mergers and litigation counterparts.
That big firms fail to see the value in estate planning work is not surprising. We think the big firm model of revenues is flawed to begin with. Armies of attorneys racking up legal fees on corporate litigation is not an economical use of clients’ resources. Thoughtful estate planning work and advising closely held businesses typically doesn’t require the manpower of 100 associates. Instead our work often only requires the careful attention of 1 or 2 attorneys, and our goal is to maximize our clients’ control and retention of their hard earned wealth.
Perhaps, then, estate planning is best left to the province of the smaller boutique law firms who understand the value of long-term wealth planning, both to the clients and to the firm. Turning away good clients and bailing on a practice area that generates considerable client relations is short-sighted, and we will be happy to continue advising our trusts and estates clients, and their families, and their businesses, well into the future.