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Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

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It is rare that a lawyer stays in one place for his or her entire career. Lawyers change law firms everyday. And yet, relatively few law firms have employment agreements with their lawyers. A lawyer’s departure from a firm can be contentious. One way to minimize the trauma is to have in place an employment agreement that addresses issues such as 1) proprietary information of the firm, 2) notice to clients of the departing lawyer, 3) handling of client files, and 4) fee splitting arrangements, among others. The N.C. State Bar recently tackled the last of these issues in an ethics opinion, 2008 FEO 8. If you haven’t reviewed your employment agreement in awhile, or if you are considering using one, take a look at this opinion first. The opinion states that any fee splitting structure between a departing lawyer and law firm that does not take into account the relative work performed by the departing lawyer after he leaves the firm may be suspect. I strongly recommend that law firms have an employment agreement with each new hire. It’s better to be prepared, because. . . the firms, they are a changin’.