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Heller Erhman’s former office at 333 Bush Street in San Francisco.

Last week’s unanimous decision by the California Supreme Court reaffirmed a principle that Jones Day fought for years to defend: Clients (and their matters) are not the property of the lawyers who represent them. The ruling represents a win not only for the law firm defendants in the case, but for their clients and for the legal profession as a whole.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, a number of law firms failed. Many of their partners joined other firms that had better planned for and weathered the storm, including Jones Day. Clients made their own choices about which firms would represent them going forward. But the bankruptcy estates of the defunct law firms wanted to reach out from the grave and claim a property interest in the work that was done by other firms after the bankrupt firms dissolved.

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