Dena Roche Partner
“Our firm’s exclusive focus and dedication to understanding the legal, ethical and risk management issues that law firms and lawyers face every day is what makes us unique. Our wide-ranging experience gives us the ability to tackle problems creatively, efficiently and with discretion, giving those we serve a distinct advantage.”
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Direct 415-952-3006
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Dena Roche is an experienced litigator and trial attorney who provides advice and counsel to California lawyers and law firms on a wide variety of legal ethics and risk management issues, law firm management, formation and dissolution, and business and partnership matters. She provides advice and counsel to California law firms as outside general counsel on attorney ethics, compliance and practice management.

Ms. Roche also advises lawyers and law firms on all aspects of attorney and group departures and transitions, including advising on the ethical and legal implications of both voluntary and involuntary law firm departures. Ms. Roche serves as a consultant and expert witness on legal and ethical issues related to law firm departures and attorney transitions. Ms. Roche is also a certified mediator who conducts mediations, and acts as a neutral, throughout California with an emphasis on resolving business and law firm partnership related disputes.

Legal Ethics Counsel

Ms. Roche provides wide-ranging advice, counsel, and representation to attorneys, law firms, and legal departments regarding attorney ethics issues, practice management, and compliance.

  • Counsels and advises law firms and lawyers on attorney ethics issues, including conflicts of interest, client confidentiality, competency issues, attorney marketing, client solicitation, fiduciary duties, fee agreements, lawyer-client relationships, client communications, technology, and social media ethics.
  • Serves as an outside General Counsel to law firms, advising on attorney ethics, compliance, and practice management.
  • Member of the Firm’s legal ethics review team for law firms and legal departments, identifying and implementing best practices, and identifying and resolving potential ethics compliance and practice management issues.

Partner Departure Law

Ms. Roche provides wide-ranging advice, counsel, and representation to California law firms, attorneys and practice groups related to departure and transition matters. Departures include planned voluntary departures, involving changing firms, going in-house or retirement from the practice of law.  Departures also include involuntary departures, involving attorneys who are asked to leave law firms or law firms planning to eject a partner, including when there are impairment or competency issues involved. All these departure scenarios impact clients and have serious legal and ethical implications for law firms and lawyers that must be properly navigated.

  • Counsels and advises departing partners, shareholders and groups of attorneys on all aspects of their contractual, legal, and ethical obligations to firm partnerships and to clients, including analyzing financial rights and obligations, attorney ethics rules and requirements, and the proper handling of client transitions. This includes developing a comprehensive transition checklist and plan, analyzing the departing partner’s rights and confirming her obligations to the law firm and clients, whether the departure is voluntary or involuntary.
  • Provides comprehensive counsel and advice to law firms managing the departure of law partners or groups of attorneys with an eye towards protecting the firm’s interests and assisting with compliance of its legal and ethical obligations to clients and the departing attorneys. This includes establishing policies in place for handing departures before they happen, including the proper way to navigate circumstances in which the firm wants or needs to ask a partner to leave, including partner ejectment. Also, advises law firms on enforcing partners’ contractual obligations, managing the logistics of the transition, and protecting the firm’s client relationships and intellectual property.
  • Counsels and advises law firms and other partnerships that are considering acquiring lateral additions to their business. This includes analyzing ethical and legal obligations when courting potential new partners, including identifying and resolving potential conflicts of interest, confidentiality concerns and other similar issues.
  • Publishes the California Partner Departure Law blog, reporting on recent developments and providing analysis on relevant topics related to transitioning departing partners into new partnerships with an emphasis on minimizing risk and reducing potential liabilities.

Law Firm Formation and Dissolution

Proper planning is a critical component of any successful law firm or attorney transition. It is also a key element to ensuring the long-term success and viability of any legal practice—big or small.  Ms. Roche counsels California law firms and attorneys on a wide variety of strategic business issues and transitions, including:

  • Partnership agreements and firm structure
  • Adding and Removing Partners
  • Law firm compensation systems
  • Law firm start-up planning
  • Law firm succession planning
  • Law firm mergers and dissolutions

Law Firm Risk Management

Ms. Roche advises California law firms regarding risk management, helping law firms to reduce their exposure to financial and reputational losses by identifying, addressing, and, when necessary, defending against risks:

  • Risk Identification: Helping California law firms to audit and analyze risk factors related to their practices, including issues such as conflicts screening, risk management processes and business practices to better understand the exposure the firm faces.
  • System, Process and Procedure Design: Designing systems, policies, processes, and procedures to minimize threats.
  • Advocacy: Mitigating the downsides of disputed issues and advising and counseling firms to ensure they are vigorously defended.

Partnership Disputes

When partnership or business disputes arise, Ms. Roche works with clients and other parties to explore negotiated resolutions whenever possible, including drafting and negotiating separation, dissolution or buy-sell agreements. However, when litigation is necessary and unavoidable, we work with our clients to make sure they are vigorously defended.  Ms. Roche has successfully represented parties in partnership-related disputes involving breach of contract, commercial lease obligations, claims such as breach of fiduciary duty, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, civil conspiracy, tortious interference claims, unfair competition (California Business & Professions Code §17200), trade secrets violations, defamation, and fraudulent inducement.

Mediator and Neutral

Ms. Roche is also a certified mediator who conducts private and pro bono mediations, and works as a third-party neutral, throughout California with an emphasis on resolving business and partnership related disputes.

Publications and Presentations

[UPCOMING PRESENTATION] Ethical Duties When Leaving and Joining Law Firms, Presenter, OCBA, MCLE, October 4, 2019

When a Large Firm Dissolves, Los Angeles Daily Journal, August 21, 2019

Managing Law Firm Risk by Embracing Change, Los Angeles Daily Journal, August 5, 2019

What’s Your Law Firm’s Relationship with the Rules?, Los Angeles Daily Journal, May 17, 2019

Recent Developments in Unauthorized Practice of Law, Moderator and Presenter, State Bar Legal Ethics Symposium, Los Angeles, MCLE, April 12, 2019

New Rules for Big Law, Presenter, San Francisco, Private, MCLE, March 28, 2019

Law Firm Resolutions for a Happy New Year, Los Angeles Daily Journal, February 11, 2019.

Why Your Law Firm Needs a Lawyer, Los Angeles Daily Journal, January 3, 2019.

Leaving Your Law Firm: 5Ws and 1H, Los Angeles Daily Journal, December 7, 2018.

The New Rules of Professional Conduct, Presenter and Organizer, State Bar of California, MCLE, November 2, 2018.

Partner Departures Can Mean Bad Business, Los Angeles Daily Journal, July 30, 2018.

What Partners Should Expect When Departing their Firm, Los Angeles Daily Journal, May 9, 2018.

Clients are Not Law Firm Property, and Neither are Lawyers, Los Angeles Daily Journal, March 29, 2018.

Should That Law Partner Stay or Should That Law Partner Go?, Los Angeles Daily Journal, February 28, 2018.

Resolution: Dust Off the Partnership Agreement, Los Angeles Daily Journal, January 19, 2018.

Law Firm Worst-Case Scenarios for Partner Departures, Los Angeles Daily Journal, December 8, 2017.

Worst-Case Scenarios When You Decide to Leave Your Firm, Los Angeles Daily Journal, November 17, 2017.

A Checklist for Bringing in Lateral Partners, Los Angeles Daily Journal, October 13, 2017.

Fall Cleaning: Reviewing Partnership Agreements, Los Angeles Daily Journal, August 25, 2017.

Partner Departure Law: It’s Not Enough to React, You Must Plan, Los Angeles Daily Journal, June 30, 2017.

The Importance of Attorney Succession Planning, presented to the Professional Advisors Roundtable, The Community Foundation of Mendocino County, May 9, 2017.

Client Confidences and the Attorney-Client Privilege, presented to the Professional Advisors Roundtable, The Community Foundation of Mendocino County, May 9, 2017.

Leaving Your Law Firm: Who Can You Tell, and When?, Attorney at Work, April 18, 2017.

Protect Your Firm from Partner Departures, Los Angeles Daily Journal, April 7, 2017.

Triggered: A Guide to the Causes of Partner Departures, Los Angeles Daily Journal, March 3, 2017.

Partner Departures: Realistic Expectations for Partners and Firms, Los Angeles Daily Journal, January 20, 2017.

Departing Your Law Firm Partnership: First Steps, Attorney At Work, January 31, 2017.

Partner Departures Aren’t Always Voluntary, Los Angeles Daily Journal, December 16, 2016.

Partner Departures: Starting Questions for Departure Planning, Los Angeles Daily Journal, November 18, 2016.

Proceed Carefully When Partner Exits Suddenly, Los Angeles Daily Journal, October 21, 2016.

Prepare for Departures Long Before the Day, Los Angeles Daily Journal, September 23, 2016.

The Benefits of Leaving Your Firm the Right Way, Los Angeles Daily Journal, August 12, 2016.

Partner Departure Law: Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run, Los Angeles Daily Journal, July 8, 2016.

Why and When Partners Leave a Law Firm, Los Angeles Daily Journal, June 9, 2016.

Thinking of Leaving Your Firm? Plan Ahead, Los Angeles Daily Journal, May 6, 2016.

Do You ‘Notice’ When Partners Exit?, Los Angeles Daily Journal, April 8, 2016.

Partner Departures, Los Angeles Daily Journal, March 14, 2016.

5 Things to Consider When it is Time to Leave Your Firm, Los Angeles Daily Journal, March 8, 2016.