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

If the client would otherwise be prejudiced, a lawyer must turn a client's file over to the lawyer's successor even if the lawyer has not been paid legal fees or costs and the client apparently is investigating an action against the lawyer. "[T]he paramount concern still remains the avoidance of prejudice to the client and, therefore, regardless of whether the client reimburses the law firm for litigation costs or pays the firm for its services, the client is entitled to copies of or possession of the original file documents if withholding such documents would prove prejudicial to the client." [Rule 1.16(e) now governs a lawyer's duty to provide files to a former client.]

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn