In December, the American Bar Association’s Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued Formal Opinion 489 (Formal Opinion 489 or the Opinion). Formal Opinion 489 confirms and solidifies the rights and obligations concerning transitioning lawyers from a legal ethics perspective.

The Opinion, for the most part, does not resolve any previously unsettled issues, but instead presents clear and concise explanations of the ethical rights and obligations of departing partners and their law firms and offers some useful suggestions. Particularly helpful is Opinion 489’s application of the ethical rules and prior opinions to common issues encountered in law firm partner transitions, such as notification to clients, servicing client matters during transition, and the enforceability of notice provisions. The entire opinion is worth reading and should be attended to by lawyers contemplating leaving their firms as well as law firm partners and/or general counsels in anticipation of potential partner departures. In this column, we provide a summary and our analysis of Formal Opinion 489.

Formal Opinion 489

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