How to notify clients when an attorney leaves the firm

first_imgHow to notify clients when an attorney leaves the firm A proposed new Bar rule prohibiting lawyers departing a law firm from unilaterally contacting clients until they have made a good faith attempt with the firm on a joint communication has been approved by the Board of Governors.New Rule 4-5.8 was approved at the board’s April 2 meeting in Pensacola, and will now be submitted to the Supreme Court.The board had looked at the rule at its January meeting, but postponed taking action after the Young Lawyers Division raised several questions. Board member Greg Parker, a member of the Disciplinary Procedure Committee which proposed the new rule, said the committee met with YLD representatives to discuss those concerns.YLD President Mark Romance said the main issue is the rule prevents the departing lawyer from contacting clients, but not the law firm. “That prohibition should apply to the law firm members that remain,” he said.But Parker said clients belong to the firm, not individual lawyers, and the rule was intended to give guidance to departing lawyers. He added that once the departing lawyer has made a good faith attempt to reach a joint communication with the firm and that attempt has failed, the lawyer is free to contact clients alone. The rule also requires such attempts among lawyers in a firm that is dissolving, if the firm has no agreements or written rules to cover that situation.The rule also provides that notices must give clients all their options.Board members questioned whether the rule was specific enough and answered all potential questions, but board member Jesse Diner said it was important to approve the draft to give guidance to Bar members. He noted the Bar gets many questions about lawyer departures and a grievance case actually provided the impetus to drafting the new rule.“We’re trying to do something to create a bright line. This rule may not be perfect, but why don’t we put something in force and put it in practice, because it does give some guidelines,” Diner said. “We can tweak it and play with it.. . . At least we’re giving young lawyers or lawyers who are leaving a firm who have never done it before a bright line.”The board approved the proposed rule by voice vote.The proposed rule provides, “Absent a specific agreement otherwise, a lawyer who is leaving a law firm shall not unilaterally contact those clients of the law firm for purposes of notifying them about the anticipated departure or to solicit representation of the clients unless the lawyer has approached an authorized representative of the law firm and attempted to negotiate a joint communication to the clients concerning the lawyer leaving the firm and bona fide negotiations have been unsuccessful.”In cases where the firm is dissolving, the rule provides, “Absent a specific agreement otherwise, a lawyer involved in the dissolution of a law firm shall not unilaterally contact clients of the law firm unless, after bona fide negotiations, authorized members of the law firm have been unable to agree on a method to provide notice to clients.” How to notify clients when an attorney leaves the firmcenter_img May 1, 2004 Regular Newslast_img

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