Opening a law firm by choice or by circumstance offers a chance at a fresh start. However, it’s all too easy to tarnish that bright, shiny new beginning with a nasty ending at your former position. That is what appears to have happened with Jim Driscoll’s departure from St. Louis law firm Brown & Crouppen, as least as described in this article.
According to the story, the Brown & Crouppen is suing Driscoll alleging that he violated his employment agreement by failing to record cases in the practice management software system or intake database, used his personal address and cell phone and pleadings and maintained files outside of the firm’s office. (It bears noting that the article just tells the firm’s side of the story, and it’s not clear how reliable that is given that the firm still lists Driscoll as an attorney even though the firm’s complaint says that Driscoll resigned in 2008).
However, there are lawyers wso eager to get their own firm started that they do indeed engage in the kind of conduct described in the complaint: they try to leverage their existing firm’s contacts and reputation to generate business for themselves in anticipation of leaving. Don’t do it. Starting a law firm is difficult enough. Doing it under the cloud of litigation by your former firm doesn’t help.
Below are more resources on how to leave a law firm:
MyShingle Resources on Leaving a Law Firm, Part I (including links to ethics decisions and sample departure letters to clients)
Avoiding a Bad Break Up When Leaving a Law Firm (Wis. Law Journal, 9/11/09)
Leaving a Law Firm in an Internet Age (trademark issues)
Don’t Neglect Your Reputation When Leaving a Law Firm (Carolyn Elefant, Complete Lawyer July 2008).
If you have any others to add or want to share your experience, let me know.