Kermit D. Marsh, Esq.
âYou Donât Own Meâ â 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 âbelongsâ to the departing lawyer (âDeparting Lawyerâ) or to the law firm (âLaw Firmâ). In California State Bar Formal Opinion No. 2020-201 (âOpinion 2020-201â), the Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (âStanding Committeeâ) provides its advisory opinion that the answer is âneither.â With due respect to Lesley Gore, when the Law Firm and the Departing Lawyer contend over who will keep the clientâs work, the client may rightfully assert: âYou donât own me.â
State Bar ethics opinions are âadvisoryâ and address âhypothetical attorney conduct.â1 Such opinions, âalthough not binding, are often cited in the decisions of the Supreme Court, the State Bar Court Review Department and the Court of Appeal.â2 Counsel should therefore consider the State Barâs Formal Opinions carefully.