As more lawyers depart large firms to strike out on their own, the ethical issues relating to departing attorneys gains more attention. Here’s another article on the topic, Practicing Ethics: Switching Jobs, NY Lawyer (5/26/06). The article focuses on the following three issues:
* When and what can be told to clients? Most lawyers have a long-standing, close professional relationships with their clients. An attorney and his prospective new firm hope these ties translate into decisions to follow the lawyer. What are the lawyer’s duties to the client in this situation, and when can she inform the client she is leaving?
* What can be told to partners and employees, and when can they be told?
* What files are available to clients and what files can be taken to the new firm?
If you’re currently at a firm, thinking of leaving, you ought to find the answers to these questions (many of which are jurisdiction specific) before you hit the road. It’s hard enough starting a law practice; don’t make it tougher by inviting disciplinary complaints against you by your former employer through actions you take when you leave.