Lawyer Mobility: Ethical Issues Arising from Lateral Hires, Partner Withdrawals and Law Firm Dissolutions

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Lawyers and law firms face many issues when lawyers join or leave a firm or when a law firm dissolves, including ethical obligations to the firm’s clients. These issues include client notification obligations and options, the client’s right to choose counsel, maintaining the confidentiality of information and files, how to address conflicts, and the duty of loyalty owed to current clients.

Professional rules, ethical opinions and case law provide guidance to lawyers and law firms in these situations, but there are many situations that do not fit neatly into the rules themselves. The experienced faculty presenting this program will provide guidance on how to navigate the waters when lawyers voluntarily or involuntarily change firms and when law firms dissolve.

Educational Objectives:
• Learn what ethical obligations lawyers have when planning to leave a firm and join another.
• Understand the requirements for client notification when a lawyer is changing firms and the obligation to allow the client a choice of counsel.
• Hear a review of the ethical rules that govern how to handle client files when a lawyer changes firms.
• Discover the ethical obligations owed to a firm’s current clients at the time of dissolution, including the need to protect against client abandonment.
• Find out how to identify and manage actual or potential conflicts of interest.

Who would benefit most from attending this program?
Lawyers in law firms, including general counsel; litigators; any attorney seeking information regarding compliance and the ethical requirements of the profession.



Merri Baldwin is chair of her firm’s Attorney Liability and Conduct Practice Group and is a member of the Complex Commercial Litigation Practice Group. She focuses on litigating business disputes and attorney liability matters, including trials, arbitration and mediation, and appeals.

Ms. Baldwin represents both plaintiffs and defendants in complex litigation matters, including claims of breach of contract, fraud, and partnership disputes and has tried cases to jury verdict. She also has significant arbitration experience. Ms. Baldwin frequently lectures to attorneys and professional organizations on issues related to litigation, legal malpractice and ethics issues, and she is an adjunct professor at Golden Gate University School of Law.

Ms. Baldwin earned a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A., magna cum laude, from Smith College. She is admitted to practice in California.


Thomas Mason is a partner with Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. He represents lawyers and law firms in malpractice, disqualification, disciplinary investigations and prosecutions, partner admissions and departures, and law firm dissolutions. He also counsels and advises lawyers and law firms in all of the above areas so as to avoid problems or disputes before they arise.

Prior to private practice, Mr. Mason worked for the Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland, where he represented clients in a wide variety of cases, including espionage, civil rights, mail and wire fraud, and controlled substance prosecutions. He went on to join the District of Columbia Public Defender Service, where he had an intensive criminal trial and appellate practice.

Mr. Mason is currently a member of the District of Columbia Bar Rules of Professional Conduct Review Committee. He also served on this Committee from 2002 through 2008. During his tenure, the Committee adopted the most extensive revisions to the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct since the D.C. Bar adopted the Rules themselves in 1991. He also served on the DC Bar Legal Ethics Committee from 2006 to 2012, including three terms as chair from 2009 to 2012.

Mr. Mason earned a J.D. from Columbia Law School and a B.A., cum laude, from Yale University.