By Linda Oligschlaeger Reviewed by Sara Rittman, Legal Ethics Counsel
It's a huge decision to pull up stakes and move to another law firm or to leave and start your own firm. Besides the economic uneasiness that may come from both sides, there are considerable emotional issues that, frankly, should be acknowledged.
Under some circumstances, leaving a law firm has been compared to the break up of a marriage. After all, you spend countless hours working very closely together, oftentimes for years. The reality of today is that law partners won't spend their entire working careers together as in the past. However, moving on doesn't have to be unpleasant if it is done right.
First and foremost, there are the departing lawyer's clients to consider and they should not be the rope in a tug-of-war. When partners or even associates leave a firm, law firm wars can develop that can combust into self-destruction for the firms involved. These situations can oftentimes be avoided by taking the necessary measures for an easier transition. The checklist below is a tool that can be used to focus on a more amicable separation for the law firm and clients.
Checklist for Leaving a Law Firm
This checklist is not considered to be all inclusive and should be used merely as a guide. Individual lawyers should rely on their own independent judgment as well as the ethical rules, and seek independent advice when leaving a law firm.
Note: Per the Cupples decision, it would be a breach of the fiduciary duty to the firm for the departing lawyer to notify clients before s/he notifies the firm of his/her departure.
The notification letter should be professional in nature and tone and include the following elements:
For assistance with practice management issues, contact Lucas Boling at The Missouri Bar at (573) 638-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Linda Oligschlaeger served as the Membership Services Director at The Missouri Bar from 1991-2012.
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