These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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12-Withdrawing Lawyers (Including Non-Compete Issues)

14-Ownership of Files and Attorney Lien Issues

This LEO answers numerous questions about a lawyer's withdrawal from a firm, including the following: (1) the ethics rules prohibit the remaining lawyers from contacting the withdrawing lawyer's clients without advising them of their right to select the lawyer of their choice, or even arranging to meet the clients as they pick up their files from the firm, if the purpose of the telephone call or meeting is to attempt to dissuade a client from hiring the withdrawing lawyer if the client has expressed an intent to do so; (2) the ethics code prohibits the remaining lawyers from contacting opposing counsel and advising them of the firm's continuing representation of a client when the client has already indicated an intent to retain the withdrawing lawyer; (3) a law firm may not condition release of a client's files upon the client's signing of a release; (4) retention of a client's papers may be unethical even if the client has not paid its bills (if retaining the files would be prejudicial to the client); (5) law firm may not deny the withdrawing lawyer access to files it if would harm the clients. [Rule 1.16(e) governs a lawyer's duty to provide files to a former client.]

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn