Washington Lawyer - May 2017 - 50

ASK THE ETHICS EXPERTS

WHEN DISSOLVING
A LAW FIRM:
KEY ETHICAL ISSUES
By Hope C. Todd

Q

I AM ONE OF FOUR PARTNERS IN A
LAW FIRM THAT ALSO EMPLOYS TWO
ASSOCIATES. One of the partners will be
retiring this year, and another partner has significant health issues that have recently taken a turn for the worse.
The remaining partner and I agree that dissolution of the firm
is an option we would like to consider. What are the ethical
implications of dissolving a law firm?

German

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A

Ben Zweig

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"[P]aramount
among a lawyer's
ethical obligations
are timely and
adequate
communication
to clients and
continued diligent
and zealous
representation."

THE PROCESS OF TERMINATING A LAW
FIRM'S EXISTENCE AS A LEGAL ENTITY gives
rise to a host of ethical, legal, and other considerations. In Opinion 372 (Ethical Considerations in
Law Firm Dissolutions), the Legal Ethics Committee provides
guidance on the ethical mandates and best practices when law
firms dissolve. As expressed in the opinion, paramount among
a lawyer's ethical obligations are timely and adequate communication to clients and continued diligent and zealous representation, including the duty to protect the clients' interests
throughout the dissolution process, and, in some instances,
beyond.
The opinion addresses issues, including notice to clients,
including when, to which clients, and in what form the notice
must be given; required notices to third parties; proper handling
of trust funds and other property, including files; communication about the dissolution to the public; and special circumstances, such as dissolution of sole proprietorships, firms that
have nonlawyer partners (as permitted under Rule 5.4(b)), and
dissolutions precipitated by the death, disability, or disappearance of a lawyer.

To access D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Opinions, visit dcbar.
org. D.C. Bar Legal Ethics counsel Hope C. Todd,
Saul Jay Singer, and Erika Stillabower are available
for inquiries at ethics@dcbar.org.

50 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

MAY 2017

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http://www.wkwilburn.com https://www.dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/ https://www.dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/ http://www.dcbar.org

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