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Partners Can Plan and Prepare to Depart from Their Law Firm
One of the biggest questions raised by both law firms and lawyers during and after the departure process is: Can a partner plan to depart a law firm without breaching fiduciary duties to the firm? The short answer: Yes. MORE
Partner Departure Law

The Firm’s California Partner Departure Law practice is unique among California firms.  We provide counsel for law firms handling partner and group departures and counsel for lawyers and groups departing a firm.

Counsel for Law Firms Facing Partner Departures

Our Partner Departure Law practice is designed to provide comprehensive, practical counsel for firms managing the departure of law partners or groups of attorneys. We analyze the issues and counsel firms on how to protect their interests — from ethical considerations to departure logistics, to anticipating and resolving partnership obligations and getting paid, and, when necessary, litigating any partnership disputes that may result from a departure — to ensure a successful resolution for the firm.

Immediately, the questions arise:

  • How does the firm enforce the departing partner’s contractual obligations?
  • How should the firm enforce the obligations owed to it by the departing partner or group?
  • How should the firm enforce the restrictions on client or employee solicitation?
  • How should the firm protect its intellectual property or other valuable assets?
  • Will all, or any, of the firm’s clients move with the departing partner or group?

We provide our clients with in-depth analysis on each issue, approaching these important legal and ethical considerations systematically. This gives the firm confidence to act and frees the firm to focus on its successful and demanding law practice, so that the firm’s interests are protected when a partner or group of attorneys departs.

Pre-Departure Considerations

We advise law firms on all legal aspects of a potential partner departure, including the legal and ethical obligations of departing partners to the firm, as well as to clients. This often includes analyzing existing partnership agreements and advising on critical components such as the scope and enforceability of non-solicitation clauses, non-compete clauses, liquidated damages provisions, and defense and indemnity provisions. We also analyze the scope of the partner’s potential liabilities to the firm in the event of a departure, how partnership shares will be valued and repurchased, and how other compensation will be distributed. This includes examining the partner’s fiduciary duties to the firm and to current clients at the early stages, when a partner departure is imminent.

Departure Considerations

Once a partner or group of attorneys departs the firm, it is important for firm to handle this transition carefully and properly in order to enforce fiduciary and ethical obligations, to minimize risk, to enforce potential liabilities, and to avoid alienating existing and potential clients. We advise firms on each aspect of the legal and ethical issues once a partner or group departs. This includes enforcing notice requirements to the partnership when it makes sense to do so, managing the announcement to existing and potential clients, handling client files and partnership property, and enforcing obligations under the partnership agreement or other rules.

Post-Departure Considerations

Once a partner has announced the departure or has left the firm, it benefits both the partner and the firm to resolve all legal and contractual aspects of their relationship as soon as possible. Our Firm has broad experience negotiating separation agreements on behalf of partners to effectively resolve outstanding partnership issues, including potential liabilities to the partnership, compensation and distributions offsets, and other potential conflicts arising from or related to the partnership agreement.

Acquiring New Lateral Partners

The Firm also counsels and advises partnerships that are considering acquiring lateral additions to their firm or business. A partnership has numerous ethical and legal obligations to consider when embarking upon a new relationship with a lateral partner and his/her potential business contacts. We advise partnerships on all aspects related to lateral acquisitions and, where necessary, represent partnerships in litigation related to these moves.

Counsel for Partners or Groups Departing a Firm

For partners or groups leaving a firm, we provide a comprehensive solution for partners departing a partnership – from pre-departure considerations, to departure logistics, to anticipating and resolving partnership obligations and getting paid, and, when necessary, litigating any partnership disputes that may result from a departure – to ensure a successful transition to your new partnership.

From the very first day that you consider departing a partnership, you need counsel. You have fiduciary obligations to the partnership, ethical obligations to your clients, and expectations from your new firm. And departing a partnership often has a significant emotional component. To navigate all of these interests skillfully, and to successfully transition your practice to a new partnership, you need a comprehensive plan with experienced counsel guiding you at each step. That is where we come in.

Pre-Departure Considerations

Any partner considering a lateral move knows that it can be a confusing and overwhelming experience. Before making this transition, it is important to properly evaluate, plan for, and understand the implications of such a change.

The Firm advises partners regarding all aspects of a potential lateral move, including their legal and ethical obligations to their existing partnership, as well as to clients. This often includes analyzing existing partnership agreements and advising on critical components such as the scope and enforceability of non-solicitation clauses, non-compete clauses, liquidated damages provisions, and defense and indemnity provisions.

The Firm also analyzes the scope of the partner’s potential liabilities to the partnership in the event of a departure, how partnership shares will be valued and repurchased, and how other compensation will be distributed. This includes examining the partner’s fiduciary duties to the existing partnership and to current clients at the earliest stages, when the partner is discussing potential opportunities with new firms or businesses.

Departure Considerations

Once the decision has been made to accept a lateral position, to form a new partnership, or otherwise to leave an existing partnership, it is important for a partner to handle this transition carefully and properly in order to comply with fiduciary and ethical obligations, to minimize risk, to reduce potential liabilities, and to avoid alienating existing and potential clients.

The Firm advises partners regarding all aspects of their legal and ethical obligations to their existing partnership, as well as to clients, once the partner chooses to make a departure. This may include analyzing the method and timing of providing notice to the existing partnership, the method and timing of making the announcement to existing and potential clients, how to properly handle client files and partnership property and complying with obligations under the existing partnership agreement.

Post-Departure Considerations

Once a partner has announced the departure or has actually left a partnership, it benefits both the partner and the former partnership to resolve all legal and contractual aspects of their relationship as soon as possible. The Firm has broad experience negotiating separation agreements on behalf of partners to effectively resolve outstanding partnership issues, including potential liabilities to the partnership, compensation and distributions owed to the departing partner, and other potential conflicts arising from or related to the partnership agreement