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Be Factual, Civil, and Businesslike

Lawyers leave law firms.

Typically, the party line is that the separation is amicable.

Typically, that line is fiction.

More often than not, the parting is not all that friendly - frequently far from it.

Recently, I got an email from a law firm which we have used a few times. It was a mass message. The lawyer who did our work had left.

The rules are clear in Virginia. The client should be told that they can go with the departing lawyer, stay with the firm or get new counsel all together.

The message I received offered the correct options, but it didn’t say where the lawyer was going. Nor was the lawyer (with her new email address) copied on it.

Maybe the firm’s message was technically compliant with the Bar rules, but it certainly violated the spirit of those rules, which are actually quite sensible.

You don’t have to be in this business very long to understand that the comings and goings of attorneys can be ugly.

Having been a law firm leader for over 25 years, I have some sympathy for the management of that firm. I have been in their position. Anger is sometimes hard to avoid - and sometimes there is good reason for it.

On the other hand, their public message made them look petty. At best.

It didn’t make me want to send them work.

When dealing with clients (or lawyers referring you clients) the circumstances and options need to be described fully and fairly.

Drop the fictitious professions of everything being all happy-happy. On a good day, it’s laughable - and not in a good way.

Likewise, there is no reason to be a jerk, even obliquely. You may think you are being subtle or clever, but the dullest of us will generally see it for what it is.

The bottom line: Just be factual, civil and businesslike.


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