Transition — Do As I Do Or Do As I Say?


David Rosenthal


September 14, 2014

September 14, 2014

In Memoriam: This article was written by Barry A. Spiegel, Q.C. in September, 2008 in Volume 36 of The Professional Advisory. This was Barry’s last article in the PA. Sadly, Barry passed away in July, 2014. He was a founding member of The Professional Advisory and co-founder of our law firm, Spiegel Rosenthal Professional Corporation. We shared the same passion for business law and advising dentists throughout Ontario. Barry was my mentor for many years. He will be sorely missed. Our deepest condolences to Barry’s family and loved ones. With the permission of his wife Joyce, as a tribute to Barry, his article is reprinted below.

 I will shortly be retiring from the practice of law, and thought this would be a good opportunity to say farewell to my readers. I also thought that you might find it interesting and helpful to read about my experience in preparing for the transition of my practice and my imminent retirement. Some day, you, too, will head into retirement. For many years, I have been advising dentists about how to approach retirement and the transition from the life of a principal to that of an associate or “retiree”. So my question to myself is “Did I really do what I have told my clients to do?” You can be the judge, and, remember that the jury is still out until I have been fully retired for at least a few months.

It has taken eight years from the planning stage to today. Proper (and lengthy) preparation is the key to success. In the year 2000, I began looking for my successor – someone who shared a passion for the law, had a common philosophy of practice, had the necessary technical skills and creativity, and finally, someone who would truly care for and understand the clients’ needs. Five years ago, I thought I had found the right person.

My spouse was an integral part of the equation. For various reasons, she knew relatively little about my professional practice, our assets, investments, prospects or net worth. (I knew very little more.) So we spent many hours informing and updating ourselves. We then revised our wills to take our current situation into account and to achieve the appropriate tax advantages. Had I not been a lawyer myself, I would have consulted a wills expert. Had I been wiser, I would have retained a financial planner.

I then prepared a list of things I have always wanted to do but never seemed to have the time for. To retire without any forethought of how to occupy your time can be dangerous. My list was lengthy and included many activities that were both intellectual (to keep my brain functioning) and recreational (to keep my heart functioning). I had never realized how much I had deprived myself! However, to this date, I have not prioritized these plans preferring to let time tell me when to act. But I am ready–.

Having found my intended successor, we worked closely for almost three years to ensure we met each other’s goals. Full and open disclosure was paramount since it created a mutual feeling of trust and respect. We then carefully negotiated his purchase of the practice with each of us obtaining independent advice before signing a binding agreement. The law practice was incorporated as a professional corporation and I agreed to remain as a shareholder so that my name could remain as part of the practice name. Since that time, we have worked closely to ensure, as much as possible, that my clients knew who would take over the practice and that he had my complete confidence.

I was not ready to retire, and did not think I had passed my “due date”, so we agreed that I would remain as an associate for at least one year to continue to assist in the introduction of clients and consultants. After one year, I would remain until either of us gave adequate notice to the other.

Nothing you have read so far, while important, is extraordinary. However, I was not fully prepared for the raw emotions that I am feeling as I say goodbye to my persona as a lawyer, and to the clients and friends I have made over my 46 years of practice. The detailed preparation seems to have paid off. My eight years of planning have made this into an exciting time for both my wife and me, which it should be, with just a touch of sadness as I embark on the next stage of my life.

Barry Spiegel, Q.C. was a senior lawyer with Spiegel Rosenthal Professional Corporation whose practice was devoted to corporate commercial and business law, with special emphasis on advising dentists. His successor, David Rosenthal, can be reached at (416) 865-0736 or e-mail to