Parting isn’t always such sweet sorrow. In fact, it can be downright contentious.
If you are contemplating leaving your firm, do your research. Meeting your ethical obligations fulfills only part of your responsibilities.
IF YOU ARE A PARTNER
Conduct your partnership withdrawal in a manner that honors the contractual and fiduciary responsibilities owed to your fellow partners. Contractual duties are controlled by your written partnership agreement. Fiduciary duties are described in case law and codified by statute in Oregon’s Revised Partnership Act.
IF YOU ARE NOT A PARTNER
Review your employment contract, employment letter, office policies, office procedures, or any other applicable terms that may control the process for terminating your relationship with your current firm or your obligations upon departure.
ARE ISSUES LIKELY TO ARISE?
Consult outside counsel experienced in the areas of lawyer mobility, partnerships, fiduciary duties, lawyer separation, and law firm dissolution.
PUT CLIENTS ABOVE ALL ELSE
If you are making a lateral move to another firm or setting up your own practice, remember that the client’s freedom of choice in selection of counsel is paramount. Always put the interests of your clients first. Keep the transition as amicable, professional, and stress-free as possible. Contentious withdrawals alienate clients and damage relationships.
GIVE NOTICE TO YOUR FIRM BEFORE YOU CONTACT CLIENTS
Inform the firm of your decision to leave before contacting any clients. Failing to give adequate and timely notice to your firm or partners before you contact clients is a violation of the duty of loyalty owed by a lawyer to his or her firm based on their contractual or agency relationship. It may also constitute conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in violation of Oregon RPC 8.4(a)(3).
The Professional Liability Fund has extensive resources for Oregon lawyers who are departing a firm, withdrawing from a partnership, or dissolving a firm. Visit our Web site for more information.
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