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Solo & Small Law Firms

Tips for Leaving Solo Practice

There’s plenty written – both at MyShingle and elsewhere – about the right way to start a law practice.  But there’s also a right way to close one down when a solo decides to move on to another position.  The attorney described in this article, State details misconduct charges, Rick Hepp, Star Ledger (2/23/2005) took the wrong approach when she continued to run her private law practice while employed as chief of staff for a New Jersey State Commerce Commision.  The attorney, Lesly Deveraux, has now been indicted for misconduct, theft and various other charges.

According to the article:

[Deveraux]  carried on her private law practice from her state office, and even hired her former law secretary to a $45,000-a-year state job to help handle her clients, state prosecutors asserted yesterday…[P]rosecutors said Devereaux had her state-paid secretary do everything from personal shopping and picking up mail to drafting legal documents and working on real estate transactions for her law practice.

“Instead of simply leaving that practice, she actually hired that secretary as a public employee and paid her illegally with commerce funds,” said Deputy Attorney General Robert Czepiel. The secretary has agreed to cooperate with authorities investigating the case.

Defense attorney Walter Timpone denied during the hearing that Devereaux did any legal work beyond finishing a few cases that she had listed in her disclosure forms when she took the state job. He also claimed prosecutors were exaggerating when they said Devereaux’s use of the secretary cost taxpayers $90,000.

When leaving solo practice, particularly for a state position, close out or transfer casefiles before you leave.  The money you’ll forego in giving up the cases is far less than the potential liability you might face if you don’t.