September 01, 2013

A Word to the Wise: What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting to Close a Solo Practice

Robert L. Ostertag

It seems generally acknowledged within our profession that the most burdensome and demanding way to practice law is as a solo general practitioner. What follows is the story of one solo practitioner, my friend Josh, whose workload and dedication to his clients were leading factors in the occurrence of the sudden stroke that left him unable to live meaningfully and unready to die, and of his clients who suffered his loss more than they would have had he merely prepared for his sudden and probably inevitable departure from the scene. Let me provide some background.

Josh and I lunched together almost every Friday for 49 years prior to his ill-fated day a year and a half ago. A soft-spoken, gentle soul, a devoted husband, an extraordinary father of four, grandfather of seven, and a competent real estate lawyer for the most part, he delved infrequently into estate administration and other less-familiar areas only when the economy went dry, as was the case shortly before he was stricken. Josh practiced out of an office he shared amiably with two other attorneys who were his tenants. His real estate clients were residential and commercial buyers and sellers and several banks—a typical small-city, upstate New York practitioner.

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