Volume 18, Number 1
January/February 2001

Clients of Today...and Tomorrow

By Patrick G. Goetzinger

Flash forward to the year 2010. What does your office look like? What does your practice look like? What does your client look like ten years from now, 20 years from now? Do these questions concern you professionally? In order to survive in the next few decades and thrive in practice, we as lawyers need to take a look at these questions and prepare ourselves to address the needs of our clients-whomever they may be.

What defines a generation? Is it an arbitrary date, or does it have more to do with culture, events, and music? However you define a generation, looking for trends that apply to a certain group of people will help you approach them as far as their legal and financial needs are concerned.

Certainly, our "clients of today" include Baby Boomers. If your clients can remember watching on television the helicopter taking off in Saigon during the Vietnam War, they are Baby Boomers. A number of economic, political, and social changes are occurring due to the aging of the baby boomer generation. Because of the tremendous amount of wealth that they have accumulated or inherited and that they will pass to their heirs, the Baby Boomers are a very important part of our current client base and our "clients of the future." It is estimated that in excess of $10 trillion will pass to the next generation as the Baby Boomers move into the latter stages of their lives. As this group continues to age and lives longer than any group prior to them, their needs will emerge, and we have a great opportunity as lawyers to help them address their needs.

If your clients cannot recall seeing the media footage of the Vietnam War and barely recall that situation in the Persian Gulf (a.k.a. the Gulf War or Operation Desert Storm), they are Generation X-ers. Gen-Xers will evolve as the second major group of clients of the future. Because Gen-Xers have staunchly different values than Baby Boomers, they will need to be treated very differently by lawyers. They will look to us to support the decisions they make; they will not look to us to guide those decisions for them. Known for their independence and individualistic confidence, Gen-Xers want to "take a go at it for themselves," and then get validation from the experts. You will be the coveted expert the Gen-Xer needs.

Gen-Xers increasing are becoming a more important sector of our society. As they move from teenagers through their twenties and thirties into their forties, they are assuming leadership roles in government, the social genre, and in the executive ranks of our major corporations. In contrast to the Baby Boomers-who value the convenience of one-stop-shopping for most of their needs-Gen-Xers' whole lives revolve around being technology-savvy. They take pride in the fact that they can navigate the World Wide Web. And, they develop relationships-personal and professional-on their terms. Their independence should not be viewed as an obstacle to lawyers but rather an opportunity. Gen-Xers do not want to "go it alone." They may want to research matters-legal, financial, or otherwise-on their own, but they look to experts to give them the assurance that they are making the right decisions.

Partnering with AXA Advisors
During the last four years, the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division has had a sponsorship agreement with AXA Advisors, LLC. AXA Advisors provides lawyers with access to a portfolio of consultative services, fee-based financial planning, and the knowledge and experience of highly rated professionals in the financial service business, many with backgrounds in accounting and law.

Section members have the opportunity to offer clients the added value of estate, retirement, and small-business owner planning without the costs usually incurred when expanding the scope of their practice. By offering these services, lawyers can become an indispensable resource in planning their clients' financial futures.

In 2001, AXA Advisors will introduce a program to offer discounted financial services to Section members and their clients. A complete menu of financial services and products will be made available to members at a rate not available to the general public. For more information, call AXA Advisors' special ABA program consultants at 800/992-0790.

Patrick G. Goetzinger is a partner in the Rapid City law firm of Gunderson, Palmer, Goodsell & Nelson, LLP. He is a frequent state and national speaker on business succession and estate planning matters. He is special issue editor of GPSolo's Technology & Practice Guide issues.

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