Informal Opinion Number: 20060060

Rules: 4-1.4
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Summary: notice to clients required for departure of partner, associate, or “of counsel” lawyer

QUESTION: An associate of Attorney’s firm is leaving Attorney’s firm. Attorney’s firm will give written notice to the clients whose employment agreements bear the associate’s signature that the associate is leaving. Attorney’s firm proposes to say that one of the partners would continue handling the case. Since the attorney leaving the firm is an associate, and not a partner, of the firm, should Attorney’s firm also include a statement that such clients are free to ask the associate to continue with their case or to hire completely different counsel?ANSWER: The same procedures apply when an attorney leaves a firm regardless of an attorney’s status in the firm. It does not matter whether the attorney was a partner, associate, “of counsel,” etc. The clients who must be notified are the clients for whom the attorney provided material representation. If it is actually possible for the departing associate to continue to represent these clients, the clients must be notified of that option.
For further information about the duties when an attorney leaves a firm, please see the article, The Right Way to Leave Your Firm. It is available in the Articles section of or by contacting the Legal Ethics Counsel office.

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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