The American Bar Association has urged an appeals court in Washington, D.C., to rule against Howrey’s bankruptcy estate and prevent dissolved law firms from claiming a portion of fees from hourly matters that partners bring with them to a new firm.

In an amicus brief filed late Thursday, the ABA, represented by Reed Smith and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, weighed in on the so-called unfinished business doctrine, the idea that a defunct law firm’s bills for ongoing matters qualify as assets for the bankrupt firm. The ABA wrote that client matters should be considered the property of the clients themselves and that a ruling otherwise would run counter to legal ethics rules and the reality of running a modern-day law practice.

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