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Ethical Obligations When a Lawyer Changes Firms

ABA Formal Opinion No. 99-414
September 8, 1999
Ethical Obligations When a Lawyer Changes Firms
© Copyright 2009 by the American Bar Association.

A lawyer’s ethical obligations upon withdrawal from one firm to join another derive from the concepts that clients’ interests must be protected and that each client has the right to choose the departing lawyer or the firm, or another lawyer to represent him. The departing lawyer and the responsible members of her firm who remain must take reasonable measures to assure that the withdrawal is accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of clients with active matters upon which the lawyer currently is working. The departing lawyer and responsible members of the law firm who remain have an ethical obligation to assure that prompt notice is given to clients on whose active matters she currently is working. The departing lawyer and responsible members of the law firm who remain also have ethical obligations to protect client information, files, and other client property. The departing lawyer is prohibited by ethical rules, and may be prohibited by other law, from making in-person contact prior to her departure with clients with whom she has no family or client-lawyer relationship. After she has left the firm, she may contact any firm client by letter.

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