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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14-Ownership of Files and Attorney Lien Issues

A discharged lawyer refused to hand-deliver the files to the client unless the client acknowledged the file's receipt. Instead, the lawyer mailed the file via certified mail, return receipt requested. The lawyer also reminded the client that the statute of limitations would lapse in two weeks. The Bar confirmed that "since the file is the property of the client, the attorney must surrender the file on demand except where he may lawfully refuse to do so." The Code does not contain any receipt requirement, "and the continued protection of the client in this case would be served better by immediate delivery of the file to the client than by mailing it by certified mail, return receipt requested." [Rule 1.16(e) now governs a lawyer's duty to provide files to a former client.]

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn