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LawBiz® TIPS – Week of March 22, 2016

Ethics Obligations Up Retirement: An Overview

When you retire, you will have certain ethics obligations as you close down your practice. The following is an overview of those obligations. This is an overview, not an exhaustive listing ... and is "retirement" not "sale," which has somewhat different rules to consider.

Notify current clients via certified mail (return receipt requested) to the last known address that the practice will be closing.

Ensure that your clients' interests and confidences are protected. Fulfill your fiduciary obligations regarding safekeeping client property. Review and satisfy your record-keeping obligations.

Send a letter informing clients that you have a file representing work done for them in the past. Include a form, to be completed and signed by the client and returned to the attorney, that explains how the client wants to dispose of his files. Request that they pick up within thirty days any files that they want to keep, or they can expect the file to be destroyed in accordance with jurisdictional rules. Always keep a record of what was sent and to whom. Get a signed receipt when files are returned to clients.

Retain all un-retrieved files for at least two years—or longer if required by your jurisdiction—and then dispose of them in accordance with your file-retention plan. If your engagement letter does not have a provision about file retention and if your office otherwise lacks such a policy, create the needed policy immediately.

Assist clients in obtaining new legal representation. Offer the names of three competent attorneys and your bar association's lawyer referral service.

Review and prioritize all open files with an emphasis on time-sensitive issues. Review closed files and have clients retrieve them. File appropriate pleadings for all litigated matters.

Complete your billings. Close out all client trust accounts.

Talk to your insurance carrier about an errors and omissions "tail" policy or continuing coverage on an annual basis. When leaving your law practice entirely, consider filing for "inactive" status with your state bar association.



Ethics Obligations Up Retirement: An Overview

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