If a lawyer is leaving a firm, which clients to notify?
Any firm clients for whom the lawyer has provided significant legal services and with whom the lawyer has had direct contact, should be notified that the associate or partner is leaving the firm. See Rule 4-1.4. The law firm and departing lawyer must engage in bona fide negotiations to send a joint letter from the firm to those clients affected by the lawyer’s departure. Only if bona fide negotiations fail may the law firm or the departing lawyer unilaterally contact the clients to notify them that the lawyer is leaving.
In addition to information about the lawyer’s departure, the letter must also provide clients with the option to either continue being represented by the departing lawyer, remain with the firm, or choose another lawyer or law firm. The letter must also indicate whether clients are responsible for any fees or costs for services already provided by the firm. See Rule 4-5.8 PROCEDURES FOR LAWYERS LEAVING LAW FIRMS AND DISSOLUTION OF LAW FIRMS.
The Ethics Informational Packet entitled Notifying Clients of Change in Firm Composition, discusses communicating with firm clients when an attorney leaves a firm, including notifying the clients of the departure, solicitation of clients and the disposition of client files.
If you have questions about the applicable rules or the ethics packet, you may contact the Ethics Hotline at 800.235.8619.