Ca. Litig. Rev. 2020


Kermit D. Marsh, Esq.

“You Don’t Own Me” – The Client Selects Future Representation When the Lawyer and the Law Firm Part Ways.

When lawyers and firms part ways, often a major point of contention is whether any particular client “belongs” to the departing lawyer (“Departing Lawyer”) or to the law firm (“Law Firm”). In California State Bar Formal Opinion No. 2020-201 (“Opinion 2020-201”), the Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (“Standing Committee”) provides its advisory opinion that the answer is “neither.” With due respect to Lesley Gore, when the Law Firm and the Departing Lawyer contend over who will keep the client’s work, the client may rightfully assert: “You don’t own me.”

State Bar ethics opinions are “advisory” and address “hypothetical attorney conduct.”1 Such opinions, “although not binding, are often cited in the decisions of the Supreme Court, the State Bar Court Review Department and the Court of Appeal.”2 Counsel should therefore consider the State Bar’s Formal Opinions carefully.

Join CLA to access this page

Join Now

Forgot Password

Enter the email associated with you account. You will then receive a link in your inbox to reset your password.

Personal Information

Select Section(s)

CLA Membership is $99 and includes one section. Additional sections are $99 each.