Informal Opinion Number: 950184

Rules: 1.16
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Declining or Terminating Representation
Summary: joint notice to clients preferred; disposition of files

QUESTION: Attorney will be leaving the firm. Attorney asks about the obligation to inform the clients Attorney brought to the firm and the clients whom Attorney is currently representing. Attorney asks whether the firm file is available to clients who wish to be represented by Attorney or someone else outside the firm. ANSWER: Attorney does have an obligation to inform clients Attorney brought to the firm and clients whom Attorney is currently representing of Attorney´s departure. The firm has a concurrent obligation to make sure that these clients are informed. There is no set procedure for accomplishing this notification. It is best if the firm and the attorney who is leaving work together on this matter. Regardless of who informs the client, the client may be told that the client has the option of staying with the firm, going with the attorney or going with any other attorney of the client´s choice. Of course, if either of the first two choices are not available due to conflicts or some other reason, the client should not be presented with the option that is not available. The original of the file on the case belongs to the client. Therefore, the attorney or firm chosen by the client should have the original file unless the client consents to receiving only a copy. This should be accomplished by working with the firm. If the firm has advanced expenses to purchase items, such as copies of records or transcripts, it does not have to relinquish those items until it has been reimbursed. Formal Opinion 115, as amended, addresses this topic.

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.

To request an Informal Opinion, please visit: https://mo-legal-ethics.org/for lawyers/requesting-an-informal-advisory-opinion/.

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