Trends and Analysis for Successfully Transitioning Lateral Partners
into New Partnerships While Minimizing Risk and Reducing Potential Liabilities

Nelson Levine v. Lewis Brisbois Just Settled: Firm Laptops and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – Lessons from A Recently Resolved Attorney Departure Case

As many attorneys who follow partner departures and lateral moves know, in 2014 a group of attorneys at Nelson Levine De Luca & Hamilton, LLC (“Nelson Levine”) in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, left the firm to join Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP (“Lewis Brisbois”), a California limited liability partnership. This departure resulted in litigation that serves as a primer on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, underscoring the importance of adding firm-issued laptops and the handling of other technology (often accessing confidential information) that attorneys regularly use, to the growing list of topics that firms and departing attorneys should address as part of the firm’s policies and procedures and in advance of any separation.
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Partner Departures and Golden v. California Emergency Physicians Medical Group: Does California’s Business and Professions Code § 16600 Void Any Partnership Provision that Restricts a Departing Partner’s Right to Compete?

The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision, filed April 8, 2015, in Golden v. California Emergency Physicians Medical Group (9th Circuit) Case No. 12-16514, has potentially far-reaching implications for what is deemed to be an unlawful professional restraint in violation of California’s Business and Professions Code § 16600. In closely examining the statute, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the reach of § 16600 does extend far beyond non-compete provisions to every contract restraining someone from “engaging in a lawful profession, trade or business.” With respect to partner departures, some restrictions contained in partnership agreements in anticipation of dissolution or partner departure are excluded from this rule by Section 16602. However, even non-compete agreements between partners, and other contractual provisions that have a similar effect, may be unenforceable if they impose any restrictions on a partner’s right to practice law not contemplated by Section 16602. More

Partner Departure Tip: Locate Your Partnership Agreement and Read It

If you are a partner in a law firm, your partnership agreement is the key document that defines your rights and obligations as a partner. It can govern everything from how you get paid, to how the firm is managed, to what liabilities you have agreed to assume. In addition, it most likely has specific terms that impact how you should properly withdraw or depart from your partnership when the time comes. However, the longer you serve as a partner in a firm, the further removed you often are from what is actually contained in the partnership agreement (which also may have been amended numerous times over the years.) More

Best Practices For Firms In Considering Whether to Provide a Departing Attorney with a Copy of His or Her Entire Mail Folder upon Departure from the Firm

Once a firm is given notice from a departing partner that the partner plans to leave the firm, there are a myriad of issues that need to be resolved prior to, and following, the partner’s actual departure. One important issue relates to the handling of the departing attorney’s email once he or she leaves the firm. Many departing partners who have been with their prior firm for a significant period of time and leave on relatively good terms often ask the firm to provide them with a copy of their entire email folder upon their departure. There are a variety of reasons for this request, but the most significant relates to the attorney’s need to have immediate access to all relevant communications related to client matters that will be following that partner to his or her new firm. However, even if a law firm is willing to comply with this request, is it appropriate to do so? And if so, what issues should the firm be concerned about with respect to the transmission of the partner’s email folder? More

The Obligations of Departing Attorneys to Avoid Prejudice to Clients Upon Firm Dissolution or Withdrawal Analyzed in California State Bar Opinion

The State Bar of California’s Standing Committee on Professional and Responsibility and Conduct’s (the “Committee”) first Formal Opinion for 2014 addresses the duties of an attorney to former clients when that attorney will no longer be representing a client following the dissolution of the attorney’s firm. (State Bar of California, Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct, Formal Opinion 2014-190.) The Committee looked at the scope of duties of both associates and partners (in various positions in the firm) in light of the requirements set forth by California Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3-700(A)(2).  In essence, the Committee found that in the event of a firm’s dissolution, all attorneys who are employed by, or are partners of, a firm are required to comply with Rule 3-700(A)(2) with respect to the firm’s clients. More