Informal Opinion Number: 2019-04

Adoption Date: 2019

Rules: 4-1.15; 4-1.5
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Safekeeping Property
Subject: Leaving a Law Firm
Summary: disputes surrounding lawyer's departure

Question: What steps can be taken by a firm and departing attorney having a dispute over compensation, professionalism, or other issues surrounding a lawyer’s departure from a firm?

Answer: Firm lawyers and a departing attorney who have a dispute about division of client fees have an obligation to cooperate as necessary to allow for the client’s timely receipt of funds in which the client has an undisputed interest. Rule 4-1.15(d). If a dispute between the firm and departing lawyer over proper division of the fee cannot be resolved, the involved lawyers should consider taking part in The Missouri Bar’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer Dispute Resolution Program. Rule 4-1.5(e), which governs the division of fees between lawyers not in the same firm, does not prohibit or regulate division of fees to be received in the future for work done when lawyers were previously associated in a firm. Rule 4-1.5(e), Comment [8].

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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