Laurence Gendelman on Estate Planning in the Digital Age

Lawrence Gendelman

AALM: What do you find particularly rewarding about your practice?

Gendelman: Practicing trust, estate, probate, digital asset, and family law allows me to spend my days helping people. Every day, I know that my work is serving to improve someone’s life, plan for their future, and protect their loved ones. I am especially excited about my digital asset practice, which focuses on planning for the succession of digital assets as well as the management, administration and distribution of digital assets after a person’s death or during periods of incapacity. For those that may be unfamiliar, digital assets include hardware, software, any electronically stored information or files, online storage accounts, email accounts, digital photos, social media accounts, website domains, blogs, cryptocurrencies (e.g., bitcoin), and more. Many trust and estate attorneys are uncomfortable addressing digital assets in their clients’ estate plans and when advising personal representatives and trustees. I am eager to serve as a resource in this area and look forward to coming up with innovative ways that trust and estate attorneys can become empowered to address digital asset issues in their own practices.

AALM: What compelled you to start your own practice? What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered running your own practice?

Gendelman: I started my practice in July of this year, which has been by far the most challenging and rewarding decision that I have ever made. The major advantage to running a small firm is that we have the ability to be nimble, adapt to the ever-changing legal landscape, and quickly respond to developments in the practice of law.

When working for larger firms, I always had the ability to collaborate with other attorneys in my office and I feared that I would no longer have this essential element of my professional development when I went out on my own. To address this fear, I decided to start my practice at LawBank, a collaborative space for independent attorneys and small firms to share their resources. LawBank allows me to interact with attorneys in all practice areas and learn techniques to better operate my firm and build my client base. I feel more supported by other practitioners in the community than ever. At every meeting, coffee, lunch, and networking event, I meet talented, kind, and generous individuals who are eager to share their knowledge with me and support my practice however they can.

AALM: How would you describe the culture of the firm?

Gendelman: Our firm takes a unique approach to litigation. As an attorney, I strive to ensure that for every action that I take on behalf of a client, they are getting something in return. This cost-benefit approach to litigation ensures that our clients can find value in our services and know that we are never generating fees working on unimportant issues. As such, in litigation, we believe that excessive posturing and “game-playing” are antiquated techniques that, more often than not, do not serve our clients best interests. We work to minimize unnecessary conflict so we can focus on the issues that will most impact our clients. Once we have identified these issues, we advocate zealously, yet mindfully, to achieve the best results possible for our clients.

AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?

Gendelman: Outside of work, I enjoy traveling whenever I can. I relish the opportunity to experience new cultures. This year, I was lucky enough to spend time with my family on a safari in South Africa.

When I’m not traveling, I enjoy discovering new brunch spots, taking walks with my iguana, Artemus, practicing yoga, networking, hiking Fourteeners, and snowboarding.

AALM: Are there any changes coming in the future that you’re excited about?

Gendelman: My business partner, Greg Knasel, and I are in the process of launching Digital Asset Consulting, a consulting firm focused on providing advisory services in the digital asset space, and professional fiduciary services for the management of digital assets. Our services will likely include serving as a fiduciary for the access and management of digital assets, as well as business consulting, valuation, and expert witness services for digital asset issues. There is a strong need for professionals who understand the complexities of digital assets and can provide related services to individuals, businesses, trustees, personal representatives, and conservators. We are excited to enter into this market in 2018.

AALM: What was the greatest lesson you learned in law school? How do you apply that to your career today?

Gendelman: As an undergraduate student, my academic performance was average. Up until law school, I had rarely felt inspired in the classroom and found that traditional collegiate education methods were ineffective for me.Upon entering law school, I knew that I would have to focus on figuring out how I learn best.

Study groups were the main key to my academic success in law school. In my first month of law school, I realized that I learn best by speaking and reading out loud and by teaching and discussing material with others. Obviously, law school is generally not conducive to this learning style and I knew that I would have to work hard outside of class to learn course material in this fashion, in addition to doing required readings. I now work to find creative ways to incorporate this learning style into my practice.