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By Suzanne Dupree Howe

PAGE: Transit ion Tips for Par t ners Changing Fir ms


Managing Direc tor, B CG At t orney
Search— Tex as
Departures from a law firm are complicated for any attorney, but for a partner the det ails can be quite intricate.
Please note: First and foremost, the int erests of your clients should be absolutely paramount. Consultation with
existing ABA and state bar guidelines on firm transition is suggested.

Below you will find a list of import ant considerations for partners when changing firms. You will also find suggested
practices for maint aining relationships, as well as obligations from a legal and moral perspective.

Before You Begin t o Meet w ith New Firms

It’s import ant to review any existing employment agreement with your former firm to make sure you are in compli-
ance with all provisions (pay particular attention to provisions regarding notice).

Practice discretion with your existing firm until you have consulted existing employment agreements and have
cleared conflicts at your new firm (but also ensure that your actions are in compliance with existing ethical guide-
lines).

Take steps to ensure you are not releasing confidential client information to a third part y. Translation: Do NOT
release confidential client information to a firm during your interview process. (Examine ABA rules and rulings
regarding this very grey area).

Once You Have an Offer in Hand

Ensure that all conflicts are cleared before notif ying your existing firm.

Ensure that proper notice in compliance with existing employment/partnership agreements is given to the firm.

If transitioning to another state, attend to any waiver requirements. Depending on the jurisdiction, it may be
prudent to wait until you have an of fer to t ake this step as many state bars will begin calling references and could
arouse suspicions. Coordinate bar fees with the new firm when the timing is appropriate.

Check professional rules of conduct to ensure compliance and appropriate timing before notifying clients of your
departure.

Solidify any arrangements for support st aff (secret aries, paralegals, associates) to relocate with you to the new
firm (but again, check cont ractual and ethical compliance).

Transit ion Tips for Par t ners Changing Fir ms


Once You Have Accept ed an Offer

Some state bar rules require that firms send out a notice to their clients notif ying them that a partner is leaving,
when said partner is leaving, and informing them that the client has the right to choose which lawyer will handle
his or her case. These let ters should address how advanced fees will be handled and should also address how client
files will be handled. These let ters should include a place for the client to sign and ret urn the let t er. These let ters
can and most likely should be sent out jointly from the old firm and the departing partner. (Examine ABA models
regarding this point).

Keep clients informed about the status of their cases and how the transition to the new firm will affect them.

Prepare memoranda to appropriate parties at the firm regarding the status of your current case load or transac-
tions in progress.

When active files are being transferred to other attorneys at the old firm, extensive notes are required in det ailing
the status of m att ers and upcoming deadlines for filings. Where appropriate, obt ain continuances, extensions, or
motions to substitute counsel and notif y clients and opposing counsel.

PAGE: Attend to any m att ers not billed or collected.

Coordinate transitioning client files.

Check to ensure you are in compliance with your new malpractice insurance carrier’s requirements. One question
to ask your new carrier, ‘’Do you insure prior acts?’’ Also examine whether you might need ‘’t ail coverage.’’

Inform courts, state agencies, or federal agencies where your matters are pending of new counsel arrangements
and/or the address of the new firm.

Notif y opposing counsel of any changes in counsel or counsel’s firm and address.

Advertise your new firm affiliation to clients, colleagues, and friends. Your new firm may have ideas on how to m ar-
ket this material, so it’s import ant to coordinate with the new firm. For materials sent to clients, t ailor your notices
to include inf ormation about how your new platform and firm can bet ter serve their needs.

Send out a press release to legal and general press. Again, this will need to be coordinated with the new firm.

Work with your new firm on let terhead and business cards.

Determine how mail will be f orwarded from the old firm to the new firm.

Inform local, state, and specialty bars about your change of affiliation.

Preserving Relationships

One of the more complicated facets of leaving a firm involves preserving the relationships between fellow partners.
It’s import ant to say goodbye to your colleagues in a manner that preserves the relationship. Friendly referrals can
continue between partners even after the partners no longer share a firm name and office space.

Spend time personally thanking the support st aff who worked with you at your old firm.

A fresh st art could involve some int rospection on ways to personally improve your performance. Solicit feedback
from partners and associates at the old firm about ways you can improve your performance.

Transit ion Tips for Par t ners Changing Fir ms