A reader who’s currently employed but actively planning to start a firm recently posed the following question to MyShingle:
How do I announce to my current employer my intentions to start a firm and leave on friendly terms but still take the clients whom I’d like to take with me (assuming the client wants to leave)?
Our reader is seeking resources on this topic as well as personal experience from other readers who’ve successfully navigated the transition from law firm employment to solo practice without burning bridges or losing clients.
I’ve jumped to the rescue on the resource end. Below is a quick list of articles and ethics opinions that deal with ethical considerations of leaving a firm and soliciting or taking clients. Essentially, most of the opinions acknowlege that both the firm and the departing attorney must act in the client’s best interest by taking whatever actions are necessary to ensure that the client can choose to remain with the firm or follow the departing lawyer. At the same time, departing lawyers must steer clear of soliciting clients while on the firm’s dime or taking files which are considered firm property without permission from the firm or the client:
1) MyShingle post on the right way and wrong way to leave a law firm.
2) Utah ethics opinion on departing lawyers
4) San Diego Bar Association opinion on departing lawyers.
5) New Hampshire opinion on departing lawyers.
6) Summary of Florida’s new rule (2004) on ethics relating to lawyers leaving firms.
8) Virginia Bar Materials on withdrawing lawyers (including non-compete agreements).
That’s what I’ve found, quickly, on the topic – I’d welcome any other information as well as personal advice from readers on what worked and what didn’t when leaving their law firms.