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. 
 Back to main menu

  Print This Leo
LEO NumTopicsSummary

5-Lawyers Changing Jobs

12-Withdrawing Lawyers (Including Non-Compete Issues)

45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

Under Rule 5.6(a), lawyers and their employers have "significant latitude" in restricting lawyers' rights to engage in the practice of law if the restrictions are tied to a legitimate "retirement benefit." To constitute a legitimate "retirement benefit," "the benefit must be one that is available only to lawyers who are in fact retiring and thereby terminating or winding down their legal careers." Normally, the benefit should be payable upon the satisfaction of some minimum age and minimum years of service, and include such indicia as "(i) the presence of benefit calculation formulas, (ii) benefits that increase as the years of service to a firm increase, and (iii) benefits that are payable over the lifetime of a retired partner," or interrelationship with other retirement or Social Security benefits. Other indicia include a separate partnership or other employment provision dealing with the benefit, and an extended pay out period. The term does not include a partner's capital account or previously earned income. If they are tied to a legitimate "retirement benefit," the restrictions can range from a permanent cessation of practicing law to geographic, temporal or practice limitations. Lawyers willing to forfeit their retirement benefit will not be bound by the restrictions, although permissible arrangements could include forfeiture of future benefits or the disgorgement of previous benefits if a lawyer violates the restrictions.

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn