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Ethically Breaking Up A Law Firm

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July 23, 2014

McGuireWoods litigator Tom Spahn, a frequent speaker on ethics issues, discusses with legal technologists Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway how lawyers can do right by both the firm and the lawyer’s clients when considering leaving a law firm. Ethics boards have recently given the green light to informing clients before law firms, Spahn says, though a lawyer should carefully review his or her contractual agreements beforehand. He notes that many law firms have sought various ways to financially penalize lawyers who leave the firm and will become competitors, and that some methods – like withholding capital or foregoing a bonus to the departing lawyer – are fine, as long as law firms treat all employees the same. But, Spahn says, that’s difficult in cases where lawyers leave to become a judgeor a general counsel for a major client. Other issues, such as how to handle a domain name change if a named partner leaves, are still nascent.

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