In New York, lawyer retirement is remarkably complex. Variations of “retire” are used in different contexts with distinct meanings and disparate outcomes. It is critically important to understand the labyrinth of potentially applicable ethics rules that intertwine with certain court rules on retirement: Rule 1.17 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct (the Rules) on the sale of a geographically-defined law practice and the exemption contained in section (b) of Rule 5.6 for sales of practice under Rule 1.17 from the prohibitions contained in section (a) of Rule 5.6; Rule 1.5(g) on the division of legal fees by lawyers not associated in the same law firm; and Rule 1.5(h)’s exception to Rule 1.5(g) for payment to a lawyer formerly associated in a law firm pursuant to a separation or retirement agreement.
Adding to the complication is §118.1(g) of the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge, containing requirements for the filing of biennial registration statements, which include a filing status that exempts the “retired” attorney from the biennial fees and requirements relating to continuing legal education. For purposes of §118.1(g), “practice of law” is described as “the giving of legal advice or counsel to, or providing legal representation for, a particular body or individual in a particular situation in either the public or private sector ….”